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For the purpose of this reflective essay I am going to concentrate on educational disadvantage at second level and traveller education. Education Disadvantage refers to a situation whereby individuals in society derive less benefit from the education system than their peers. It is an issue that has grown in significance in educational and social policy arenas in Ireland in recent years. It can be considered to be a factor that perpetuates intergenerational poverty. Education disadvantage is defined by the Education Act (DES, 1997b:32) as; "The impediments to education arising from social or economic disadvantage which prevent students from deriving appropriate benefit from education in schools" President McAleese referred to educational disadvantage for young people who "find the gates of opportunity firmly shut or who lack the insight, the support or the maturity of judgement to recognise and commit to the education and training which is on offer at this crucial stage in their lives" In my opinion education disadvantage is a multi-dimensional problem, it is a symptom of a wider range of issues. These issues may include: (i) Children welfare needs (ii) Lack of family commitment in education & (iii) Failure of the education system to address the needs of minority groups for example Travellers.
Some schools operate special classes exclusively for Traveller pupils, while others withdraw Traveller children from general class for special tuition. Schools in which Traveller children are enrolled are entitled to enhanced capitation grants. To tackle Traveller educational disadvantage it appears to me that the Department of Education and Science have made a genuine effort. I believe that for success of the provisions made by the Department it lies on the shoulders of their families and the communities. Traveller parents need to be aware and educated of the importance of sending their children to school, if parents believe in education it will have a knock on effect on the children. Communities need to break down the barriers of racism that is shown towards travellers. In my opinion I believe there is a clear need to overhaul the Junior Certificate syllabus to make it more imaginative and practical as well as expanding its foundation element, in order to make it more attractive to disadvantaged children. Experts such as Scott Boldt and Brendan Devine emphasise the importance of moving to primary school to identify problem pupils and to involve parents, community organisations and health and social welfare agencies in efforts to ensure they do not drop out.
The principles of intervention include identification and targeting of individual needs, positive discrimination, integrated holistic services, and parental involvement and development. A holistic approach should involve developing child- child, family-child and family- community relationships. Finally, policy must view educational disadvantage within the context of broader socio-economic and political conditions. Inequality in the education system is but one aspect of growing inequality in Ireland. I believe that ending educational disadvantage must take place within a framework of eradicating both consistent and relative poverty in Ireland. This calls on all structures within Irish society to contribute to this process, not just those in education. I have come to a better understanding of educational disadvantage through the course of writing this Reflective essay. * Combat Poverty Agency working against poverty and inequality in Ireland November 2002 * Lynch K(1999) Equality in Education, Dublin; Gill & Macmillan * Kelleghan, T et al (1995), Educational Disadvantage in Ireland * Cullen, B (in preparation). Towards an integrated framework for tackling early school leaving. Unpublished paper. The Children's Research Centre, Trinity College, Dublin. * UNICEF: A league table of educational disadvantage in rich nations. * Boldt, S and Devine, B., Educational Disadvantage in Ireland: Literature Review and Summary Report" 04955315 1
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