The teachers have been attempting to focus public attention on cutbacks in the education sector. Whether or not this is a smokescreen for 'leave our pay and conditions alone' we'll have to wait and see. However one stat that gets churned out ad nauseum is that our spending on education in relation to our wealth is 'next to bottom of the OECD table' or some such shocker.
Well you can have a gander at the OECD report Education at a Glance 2008
And, with a bit of browsing, you'll discover some of the following:
1. In terms of education spending as a percentage of GDP Ireland is ranked third last behind Greece and Slovakia. However if you strip out privately sourced expenditure there are actually nine countries ranked lower than Ireland.
2. In the section “Cumulative expenditure on educational institutions per student over the theoretical duration of primary and secondary studies” 18 countries rank below Ireland.
3. In the section “Total public expenditure on education as a percentage of total public expenditure” Ireland is ranked tenth, with 21 countries ranked below.
4. Still, in truth, Ireland remains below the OECD average in most categories in the report. However one place Ireland is not below the average is teachers' salaries. For the category "Teachers' salaries in lower secondary education, 2006" Ireland ranked sixth, with 25 countries ranked lower. In fact Ireland is above the OECD average for teacher’s salaries at every point measured – entry level and top of scale in Primary, Secondary and Third-level.
You see the problem with all the complaining about the cutback in services is that the cutbacks are as a result of an explosion in public sector pay. If all public sector workers want to keep their jobs and their current salaries then front-line services will get cut.
However if the unions in the education and health sectors really care about our children and our infirm as much as they claim they do, then they will facilitate the government in a programme of removing dead-weight employees from the workforce and they will offer to tear up their bibles of restrictive work practices. Maybe secondary school teachers could offer to do a whole 20-hours of class time per week?...