It will not come as a surprise to anyone that education is an absolute necessity to a thriving society. It plays a key role in the outcome of our nation’s youth, but the cost of providing a child with an adequate education disproportionately impacts on working-class people.
According to Zurich bank, the average cost of putting a child through the entire education system (i.e. with them attaining a third-level qualification) is €60,616. In Ireland, one in four families consist of only one parent, and 86.4 per cent of these are headed by the mother. Parents, particularly mothers, will incur these costs at a far greater rate than other families due to the lack of income from a partner.
Currently in Ireland the average income is €44,202, but prices have risen by 9.1 per cent and incomes are not rising in line with this. The hopes for state intervention to mitigate these rising costs of education are also unlikely. Out of all 36 countries in the OECD, Ireland spends the least on secondary education. Given rising inflation and the already extortionate cost of education in the south, working-class families with young children are facing a serious predicament. Families are now being faced with choosing between essential services be it food, education, or heating their homes. Ultimately, working-class children are deprived of a decent education more than those from wealthier backgrounds given these high prices.
According to Tusla, students from working-class backgrounds are more likely to leave school early. Leaving school early has also been linked with living in a deprived area. As mentioned above, due to the rising fuel costs and already high cost of education, families across the country are now falling into poverty. This is even more concerning considering that the European Parliament predicts that in the future, only 1 in 10 jobs will be accessible to those who leave school early.
When income is compared, those with higher levels of education in the south earn significantly more than those with lower levels. For example, in 2016, the median wage for someone with a Ph.D. was €60,912, while the median wage for someone with ‘no education’ was €14,684. Not only is education essential for future employment, it is necessary to attain a suitable level of income. With these rising costs of education, working-class children are now at an even greater risk of missing out on a decent education and by extension, face greater risks of poverty and unemployment.
What does this mean? Poverty in Ireland is becoming increasingly inescapable and education is a necessity in mitigating this. Due to the increase in poverty, many children will be deprived of an education. Poverty and lack of education exist in a cyclical process with each other. It is unsurprising that those in government have allowed this situation to occur. Their current funding for secondary education is horrifically low.
In 2012, under the Fine Gael-Labour coalition, the salary of teachers was cut from 11 to 13 per cent, and at the time it was predicted that this would drive people out of the profession. This came true in March 2022, when 55% of principals reported unfulfilled teaching posts.In 2013, primary schools experienced a 25% cut back in the allocation of resource hours for students with additional needs, introduced by then Labour minister for education, Ruairi Quinn. So damaging was this to working-families, that his own party’s chairperson heavily criticised the move, saying it went “against core values of the Labour Party and once again attack the most vulnerable in society”.
The Irish proletariat are having their education stolen from them. The ruling parties have little interest in providing young people with an education as seen by their track record. During the last period of austerity, education experienced drastic cuts and more barriers to education are being constructed through poverty being imposed on Irish people. Profits of companies like Bord Gáís and landlords are being defended, yet little is being done to provide a decent education to our young people. The priorities of the ruling parties are both clear and unchanging.