Apr 30 2012

Annual All-Ireland Schools’ Programming Competition

Category: Second Level,Software DevelopmentTeknovis @ 9:22 am

The deadline for entry into the Annual All-Ireland Schools’ Programming Competition is the end of this week! It is a great competition, and the standard at the final in DCU is always extremely high!

For more details see How to Enter.

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Jan 18 2012

Smart Futures Ireland

Category: Events,Second Level,Third LevelTeknovis @ 1:11 pm

Smart Futures is an initiative designed to encourage students to pursue careers in technology.

Smart Futures is a national campaign for second-level students in Ireland highlighting career opportunities in information and communications technology (ICT) in association with e-Skills Week 2012. It includes a digital content competition, an online careers fair from 23-27 January 2012, and regular updates on our blog about the sector, career stories and competitions.

It is a really good idea, and I think that it is very necessary! There are some very well known companies behind it, including Cisco, Ericsson, HP, Microsoft, Openet, SAP.

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Sep 02 2011

Mike on Maths

Category: Second Level,Third LevelTeknovis @ 1:37 pm

Mike Scott, Head of School of Computing in DCU, has spoken out on the falling standard of students, and the perceived difficulty of certain subjects such as maths, in The Tech-Sounding Math-Free Degree!.

I completely agree with all of the opinions expressed, although I would question the following:

Meanwhile in DCU we will continue to insist that graduates emerging from our computing degree courses will have strong technical skills. This is why employers consistently indicate a preference for our graduates.

From the employer’s side of the table, I would definitely question the calibre of some of the recent graduates. Indeed, this is not a problem that is constrained to DCU, but it is equally applicable to all of the Irish universities.

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Jun 10 2011

Irish Maths Standards

Category: Second LevelTeknovis @ 3:03 pm

The first of the two final state maths exams that students do at the end of their second level schooling is in progress right now. Apparently, there are fewer students doing the highest level of maths than ever before: Leaving Cert honours maths uptake hits record low – report.

Welcome to the knowledge economy Irish style – a place where maths is not important!

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Nov 02 2010

Fine Gael on Second Level Education

Category: Second LevelTeknovis @ 6:22 pm

I recently described a few changes I would make to second level education in Ireland in Reforming Second Level Education in Ireland.

Today I read the more thought-out educational reforms suggested by Fine Gael (the largest opposition political party) in No more Republic of average.

I do not agree with all of the points. However, I was surprised to see that we have a common vision for the future direction of the compulsory teaching of Irish:

4 Abolish compulsory Irish

I passionately believe that Irish should not be a compulsory subject for the Leaving Cert. Sixteen-year-olds should make up their own mind if they want to study Irish. In my view the destruction of the language is based upon compelling every Irish student to study Irish whether they like it or not.

We need to introduce other European languages at a much earlier stage. Less than 15 per cent of all primary schools provide a modern European language, excluding Irish and English. Our performance in this area is not good enough. Our future success will be based on our students having greater aptitude in all languages. The earlier we offer new languages in the primary curriculum the easier it will be to reach the European average later in a child’s development.

I think the chances of this happening are significantly greater now!

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Oct 13 2010

The Simpsons Do Maths

Category: Humour,Second LevelTeknovis @ 5:14 pm

After writing about Maths yesterday in Reforming Second Level Education in Ireland, I read this facinating article today: Homer+Bart×maths = prime formula for comedy genius.

I am particularly impressed with Mersenne prime numbers, perfect numbers, and narcissistic numbers!


Oct 12 2010

Reforming Second Level Education in Ireland

Category: Second LevelTeknovis @ 12:43 pm

I was interested to hear that the seven Universities in Ireland will start to award bonus marks to students for taking the highest level of Maths in the Leaving Certificate. Under this new plan students would get an additional 25 points, which is out of a maximum 600. For more information see Bonus points for higher level Maths.

My first impression is that this is a great idea, because it should encourage the uptake of Maths. I think that this country really needs to refocus on Science and Technology in order to remain in the global market. However, it does seem unfortunate that most of the University courses that require high points do not require an ability in Maths (I am thinking of Law, Dentistry, …).

There are also a few additional changes that should be made to second level education:

  • Make all Leaving Certificate subjects optional from the school or State’s point of view. Students have the life skills by the time they do the Junior Certificate, so let the Leaving Certificate be about specialisation and choice.
  • Make Irish optional in secondary school. In the global economy, and especially in difficult economic times, students should be allowed to choose the subjects that will give both them, and the country, the best chance of success. Yes, it is great to enforce “dead culture”, but I think that most people prefer jobs and income!
  • Let the Universities introduce more specific course requirements. For example, Physics could become mandatory for entering an engineering degree. This would enable the Universities to build upon the Leaving Certificate education, rather than having to repeat it for those who choose other subjects.

Unfortunately, I doubt that any of these ideas will ever come into practice due to the slow speed that our education system. Additionally, it seems to me that teachers are against all change unless they are financially compensated.

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Jan 13 2009

The Calibre of Irish Software Engineers

Category: Second Level,Third LevelTeknovis @ 8:58 pm

I read a really interesting blog post recently titled The hard truth about the Irish knowledge economy that is commenting on the fact that Google has decided to abandon its plans to create an additional 100 jobs in Dublin for software engineers. The apparent reason for this change is plan is that it has been unable to recruit staff of the right calibre.

According to the original newspaper article upon which this post is made, John Herlihy (Google’s vice-president for online sales and the head of its Dublin-based European headquarters) made the following comments:

We wanted to recruit up to 100 software engineers, but we couldn’t find candidates of the calibre we were looking for in Ireland

The jobs have been lost. We have since built different engineering teams in countries including Poland, Norway and Switzerland. We have a great team of 30 engineers here, but it could have been 100

Many of the comments in response to this post believe that Google actually cancelled these new jobs due to the changing economic circumstances. I actually tend to agree with this point of view, especially after I read Details about Google’s layoffs — actually, no, none. That article seems to suggest that Google is not very forthcoming in relation to its employment details.

John Herlihy is also attributed to saying:

I’m not sure the quality and the output of our third level [colleges] is as good as we think it is. There’s a huge amount of dumbing down at third level and second level

John Looney (a Google employee) makes the same argument in the response that he posted:

Most Irish computing graduates are crap, due to our apathetic university system.

I do not think that I would describe computing graduates as “crap”, but I understand why John is saying this. I would say that there are huge variations in standards between software engineering graduates. Many employers in Ireland share this opinion, as I described in IT Graduate Recruitment in Ireland.

John Looney continues:

… Ireland is just not an attractive location for high-end computing folk (wages vs. cost-of-living is rubbish).

Yes, I fully agree with him regarding the cost-of-living in Ireland. Furthermore, I think that the quality-of-life here is quite poor compared to many other EU countries.

John Looney continues:

It doesn’t help that most good Irish engineers get jobs through their friends, so have no interviewing experience…

I agree with John that a lot of good Irish software engineers get jobs through contacts and referrals, but I think that this is a good for both the potential employees and the employers. In my experience, recruitment by referral happens more in Ireland than any other country.

Finally, John Loney writes:

If the government is serious about a ‘knowledge economy’, we need real tech universities. Ones that fail people if they can’t pass the course (rather than make the course easier) …

My perception, and experience, is that the Irish universities are simplifying courses to ensure that failure rates remain low. I find it absolutely amazing that some Irish universities will accept students who do not have the highest level of maths into engineering courses!

I think that this simplification approach actually began within second level education. There are too many people choosing “easy” subjects that have no relevance to their chosen career paths.

Perhaps the most controversial opinion is one expressed by John Herlihy:

We’re throwing massive amounts of money at third level institutes. Too much. You can’t continue to throw public money after seven universities. You have to decide whether we only need two or three, and which of those will be top.

Wow! I bet that the Irish universities will not be happy with that opinion, but I actually think that it makes sense. However, I think that this is already changing, because money is now being invested into research groups that span multiple universities rather than replicating the same research on a smaller scale in each university. See Science Foundation Ireland Funded Research Groups for examples of this approach.

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