Mind­ful­ness and cur­ricu­lum over­load

The Irish Times - - Comment & letters -

Sir, – I was in­ter­ested to read of the Min­is­ter for Ed­u­ca­tion’s plan to train thou­sands of teach­ers in dis­ad­van­taged schools to help re­duce pupils’ anx­i­ety and boost their re­silience (News, Oc­to­ber 9th).

While this ini­tia­tive has to be ap­plauded, and few would ar­gue with the im­por­tance of the build­ing of chil­dren’s emo­tional re­silience and cop­ing skills, there are ques­tions to be asked. Will this money be well spent? The SPHE (So­cial, Per­sonal and Health Ed­u­ca­tion) pro­gramme in schools al­ready pro­vides op­por­tu­ni­ties to foster the per­sonal de­vel­op­ment and well­be­ing of the child.

How­ever, the is­sue of time al­lo­ca­tion within the cur­ricu­lum needs to be ad­dressed in or­der to fa­cil­i­tate the ef­fec­tive im­ple­men­ta­tion of the SPHE pro­gramme.

Time con­straints have been ex­ac­er­bated in the pri­mary school with the de­vel­op­ment of the Lit­er­acy and Nu­mer­acy Strat­egy, which was launched in 2011.

While this strat­egy is laud­able, the in­creased cur­ricu­lum time al­lo­cated to English and math­e­mat­ics in­evitably has com­pro­mised the avail­able time for SPHE.

Fi­nally, when con­sid­er­ing the well­be­ing of the child, the re­al­ity of the chang­ing pro­file of the Ir­ish class­room needs to be ex­am­ined. There is limited ev­i­dence of a con­scious ef­fort to recog­nise the ex­tra chal­lenges posed by the grow­ing cul­tur­ally di­verse class­room. Teach­ers now need to be knowl­edge­able about the mul­ti­ple cul­tures, rit­u­als and be­lief sys­tems of their pupils and fam­i­lies in or­der to sup­port the child through the anx­i­ety pro­duced, for ex­am­ple, through a death or sig­nif­i­cant loss.

Stud­ies of these is­sues need fund­ing, at both ini­tial teacher ed­u­ca­tion and con­tin­u­ing pro­fes­sional de­vel­op­ment lev­els.

It is my wish and hope that the ed­u­ca­tors and pol­i­cy­mak­ers of this na­tion would con­sider, re­flect upon, dis­cuss and take ap­pro­pri­ate ac­tion to make Ire­land, as stated by Mr Bruton, the “best ed­u­ca­tion and train­ing ser­vice in Europe within a decade”. – Yours, etc, CARMELITA McGLOUGHIN, Bal­ly­clough,

Co Lim­er­ick.

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