Gillian Coughlan, Mayor of Cork County, and a teacher herself, discussed the place of the teachers at the heart of the European education area during a Renew Europe webinar with Ilana Cicurel MEP
Coughlan, who was previously also a rapporteur in the European Committee of the Regions on the Digital Education Plan, has a good view on education on the ground as a teacher for the last 20 years, and in her capacity as Mayor as she has the opportunity to visit other schools and universities, so she knows for the students, parents and teachers what is going on today in our education system.
COVID-19 was a shock to every section of society, including very vividly in the education sphere. Suddenly, students and teachers had to stay at home to learn and teach from home. In the school where I teach, we were fortunate that a major investment in technology had recently been made, said Coughlan.
Coughlan called for physical education hubs to be established in university cities so that teachers across the educational system can continue in-service quality and professional development. While being physical hubs, the digital element will obviously also be available.
Focusing on the shortage of teachers in her home country, Coughlan supported offering teachers an attractive pay package. “Today in Ireland younger teachers are on a lower pay scale than more senior colleagues. This is an appalling scenario and a disincentive to young people. If teachers and education are the heart or at the heart of education, then investment are the lungs, feeding education to lead to clear benefits: well-educated, happy students entering the workforce. The more we invest in education, the more we invest in the future.”
Coughlan concluded with an appeal to invest in and to value teachers, providing the back-up support to which they can refer a child facing a crisis as too often they have to wait, seeing this as a biggest challenge.
Other participants of the webinar on 28 October 2021 included Mariya Gabriel, European Commissioner for Innovation, research, Culture, Education and Youth, Jean Michel Blanquer, French Minister of National Education, Li Andersson, Finish Minister of Education and Culture, and others.