There are many challenges for educators to overcome in the modern second-level classroom. Teachers are expected to be capable of dealing effectively with numerous issues such as diversity and disadvantage. Their job is to provide students with the greatest degree of preparation possible for the next stage of their lives. This means that teachers at this level must be well trained, dynamic and highly adaptable – all qualities that the Professional Diploma in Education (formerly known as the Postgraduate Diploma in Education) aims to instil.
In order to enter the teaching profession is one of the many that has been affected by the reversal suffered by the Irish economy recently. Getting a place on the necessary training course, and gaining permanent employment thereafter, can be a very challenging undertaking. There are still opportunities, however, and some sections of the profession are experiencing growth. Teaching at secondary level is a rewarding career choice, and remains a very popular one for many graduates.
There are several requirements for those hoping to enter the teaching profession, one of which is to hold a primary degree that will allow the holder to teach to higher leaving cert standard in at least one subject on the school curriculum. Would-be educators must then obtain a Professional Diploma (PDE) in Education, or equivalent, which normally takes one year of full-time study. The CAO points the student will require depend very much on the subject or subjects chosen. For those seeking to make a career in such subjects as Art, Music, Religion, Physical Education or Home Economics, there are dedicated courses available that bypass the need for a postgraduate qualification. Dedicated degrees in Science have also been introduced.
The one-year PDE requires that students undertake training in several core modules. These include topics such as Philosophy and History of Education, Psychology of Teaching and Learning and Inclusive and Multicultural Education. More practical elements include lesson planning, administration and assessment and Teaching Practice (to which a certain numbers of hours – generally around 100 – are allocated to teaching in an approved secondary school). A critical appraisal of the student’s performance in the classroom is a key element of teacher training. Accredited teacher training programmes are available from the constituent colleges of the National University of Ireland: UCD, UCC, NUI Galway and NUI Maynooth.
The Professional Diploma in Education on offer at Dublin City University is of two years’ duration with classes held in the evenings. As part of the school placement programme, student teachers must spend 200 hours systematically observing and participating in school life (this is in addition to the 100 hours of teaching they must undertake). It is also possible to study for the Professional Diploma in Education Trinity College Dublin; and those wishing to pursue their teaching qualification through the Irish language can do so at NUI Galway.
The University of Limerick provides a range of one-year full-time PGDs in a variety of subject areas. There include Music, Maths, Science, Technology, Languages, Business Studies and Physical Education.
Generally speaking, assessment for the PDE is continuous and a strong focus is place on a student’s capacity to integrate both theory and practice. Students are expected to apply what they have learned from each of the elements of the programme with their own personal experience in a considered and critical manner.
Qualified teachers are not solely reliant on the secondary school system for employment, however. While the majority of graduates will work as teachers in voluntary secondary, vocational, community and comprehensive schools, others will pursue further studies in education and related fields – such as in guidance, pastoral care, school leadership and management. Others again may go on to work in further education, higher education, within government departments or in other education and training settings.
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