I spent much of my childhood attending private, fee-paying schools in the leafy – or sandy – suburbs of north county Dublin, mixing in the main with students from other affluent or socially ambitious families. Back then, the country still lacked the rigid social strata found among some of its European neighbours, notably the hierarchical United Kingdom. Consequently the only hurdle to entry was the ability of parents to pay the exorbitant annual fees. I was just as likely to mix with the son of a well-off farmer or the offspring of a prosperous shopkeeper as the pampered progeny of bankers and solicitors (though precious few women or girls, the ubiquitous cleaners and canteen-workers aside).
Those early experiences have left me with a strong aversion to private education. Instinctively, as a republican, I have a firm belief in the efficacy of universal and public education. Admittedly, I have no family or children of my own, but in my opinion greater value should be placed on the socially levelling nature of shared education, of individuals and communities interacting and integrating with each other through learning (and play!). By experiencing the same schooling, the same syllabuses, we produce a more cohesive and united society. Quite frankly I have no time for private or religious schooling of any kind. The citizens of a republic should be educated together, just as they must live together, bound by a common sense of self, of who we are as a nation (or who we wish to be). This, I suppose, is one of the few areas where I am more of a socialist than a social-democrat. Aside from after-school or weekend classes, I would prohibit private education and require all children to attend public and wholly secular schooling (independently managed by employees and parents, with an end to partisan or faith-based patronage).
IRELAND’S MOST EXPENSIVE school is set to open its doors in Dublin this September, with fees of up to €24,000 a year, and its students won’t have to follow the State curriculum.
The Nord Anglia International School in Sandyford, Dublin will instead offer both Irish and international students the International Baccalaureate (IB). The qualification is recognised globally and students receive a diploma upon completion of the course.
The school will initially allow enrollments from children aged between three and 15.
Crute said that the school will offer Irish as a subject, but it won’t be compulsory. Instead, Crute said the school will focus on internationally-taught subjects.
The school will offer facilities to students to make them feel connected to its sister schools around the world…
The reaction from the principal at Dublin’s Nord Anglia, Paul Crute, when interviewed on RTÉ Radio One’s Today with Sean O’Rourke, is telling:
In terms of operating under the guidance of the Department of Education, O’Rourke asked would the school be engaging with the department, which was met by a long pause before Crute asking “in terms of what?”.
He said the school wouldn’t be evaluated by the Department of Education because it “will not be taking any public funding whatsoever”.
I’m sorry, and no doubt some will criticise me for this, but this smacks of educational segregation, with a wealthy and ideologically driven elite choosing to cut themselves off from the society and nation-state in which they live. It doesn’t matter a whit to me that this new school will be self-financing or that it will refuse public funding. If it stands apart from the education system of Ireland, by its own choice, then it is less a welcome and culturally enriching newcomer and more an unwelcome and culturally isolated occupier.