Fine Gael education spokesman Brian Hayes: 'Teachers want a new vision for Irish education'

FINE GAEL is planning a radical reform of the entire schools system that will see the "demolition" of the Department of Education and the possible abolition of the Leaving Certificate as we know it.

The Sunday Tribune can reveal the party plans to launch a whole new education system, based on the globally respected Finnish education model.

Key figures in the party are privately making plans to launch the policy document on schools reform in the coming months.

It is understood that the party is considering an overhaul of the Leaving Certificate examination in a bid to move away from the current system that is overly dependent on rote learning.

One system being seriously considered is the abolition of the exam in its current format to be replaced by a new system that involves more continuous assessment and collaborative work between students over a two-year period.

There is a belief that this new system will better prepare students for the workplace rather than writing out everything they have learned off within the confines of an exam hall over a period of a few hours.

As well as ambitiously outlining a plan to restructure the education system, the document will propose that a new National Convention on Education should be put in place.

The innovative document will form a key part of Fine Gael's general election manifesto. The party has already launched its FairCare healthcare document (based on the Dutch model of universal free healthcare), its New Politics document (that promises radical political reforms such as scrapping the Seanad) and its ambitious NewERA plan which involves far-reaching reform of the semi-state sector.

The party's education spokesman Brian Hayes, who was reluctant to be drawn on details of the plan, said, "I can confirm that I am working on a new policy document for schools and I have been very impressed by the Finnish model with the freedom that gives to schools.

"It is very much a model of giving financial and policy autonomy to local schools. It is a model that is based on a radical demolition of the Department of Education, away from the centralist, Stalinist department to a department that is more involved in the evaluation of schools and teachers rather than the day-to-day management of schools."

Under the new plan, the current top-down system of the Department of Education producing circulars and a standard curriculum for all schools will be transformed. Instead, individual schools will be given more freedom to deviate from the curriculum and take their own direction.

"I think teachers want a new vision for Irish education. They are up for the challenge to restructure Irish education and that is why it is important we have this public debate on where our education system is going as it is crucial for our economic recovery," he said.