There is a culture of snobbery around university education in Ireland, says Harris

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Higher Education Minister Simon Harris said Ireland had created a culture of snobbery around higher education, with Leaving Certificate students believing they had to go to university to succeed in life .

In an interview on Newstalk, Mr Harris said he had visited dozens of secondary schools this year to talk to pupils about their options “and to be honest you can see the fear and anxiety in the eyes of so many people”.

“We live in a country here where I actually think we are outliers in terms of how much pressure we actually put on young people; in terms of you have to get X points and if you don’t get X points you can’t fulfill your dreams or your career.

“That is not true and we have allowed a narrowing of the conversation about after school options.

“I’m not saying this to blame the parents or the students,” he said.

“I think it’s a culture we’ve created in Ireland where it’s all about… sometimes the question is telling me the name of the university you want to go to rather than telling me what you want to do with your life, and we’ll show you how to get there.”

Devaluation of professions

Mr Harris said working trades and other career paths had been devalued in Irish society.

“It is no coincidence that we lack the personnel to build houses in this country.

“It is not accidental from a political point of view that we do not have enough people to renovate houses in this country.

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“It is the consequence of the fact that we have, in my opinion, devalued the importance that we give to trades and alternative paths after school.

Mr Harris said changes have been made to the CAO website to ensure students can now see continuing education options and information about apprenticeships.

“So what I’m trying to do is broaden that conversation, create better bridges between higher education and higher education, emphasize the importance of learning and the fact that this is a third level and it can provide you with a qualification and a well paid job.

“We have to get past this idea that when the young adult sits down with mom, dad or teacher, the only conversation they have is about CAD and stitches and actually start talking about all the different ways to get where you want to be.”

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