Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Happy Christmas and New Year to EGA Members

A Chairde go Leir

On behalf of the UCD Engineering Graduates Association I wish you and your families a very Happy Christmas and a Peaceful and Prosperous New Year.
We have had a very busy and successful year thanks to the attendances at our Annual Spring Lecture, our Annual Lunch/Distinguished Graduate Award and Autumn Panel Discussion the latter event led by An Taoiseach Enda Kenny TD. The high attendances at these events greatly raised our national profile and that in turn adds to our membership and engagement in Irish society. These events have all been recorded on our website including our new Engineers Newsletter.
This winter we are concentrating on growing our individual (€25/annum) and corporate (€250/€500/annum) members. I will be welcoming the first new corporate members early in the New Year and we will display their logos permanently on the EGA website.
Nollag Shona agus Athbhliain faoi mhaise daoibh go leir.

P J Rudden

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Broad Welcome for Junior Cycle Reform – “Innovation and Identity”

The new Junior Cycle syllabus is termed “Innovation and Identity” by its authors the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) – a wonderful new organisation grown out of the Department of Education and Skills. The NCCA has created a new vision for secondary school education where the current focus is on Junior Cycle Reform and on Project Maths at Leaving Certificate levels.

I have been following the progress of this new development since it was first launched by then Minister Mary Coughlan in early 2010. This progress has continued under Minister Ruairi Quinn supporting NCCA in their mission.

The key skills that the new Junior Cycle seeks to embed in our young pupils are:
                                                       Managing Information and Thinking
                                                       Managing Myself
                                                       Working with others
                                                       Being creative
                                                       Staying well
As President of Engineers Ireland two years ago I was very critical of the old Junior Cycle at Second Level Education.In my school days, it was known as the Intermediate Certificate Examination later changed to the Junior Certificate Examination.

In 2009 I was Vice President of Engineers Ireland and was asked to chair a Task Force to investigate the teaching of Maths and Science at Second Level. This resulted from many senior national and international industry figures making negative comments about falling numeracy levels in Irish schools. This was just as the new Project Maths was being rolled out to 24 pilot Secondary schools countrywide.

The principal concern at the time was the relatively low % of students (16 - 19 %) taking Hons Maths at Leaving Cert. Because of the importance of Leaving Hons Maths to future careers in engineering and technology there were cries from industry to government to try to correct this deficiency. We published the Engineers Ireland Report in February 2010 making many recommendations most of which were taken on board by the Dept of Education and Skills.


The Engineers Ireland Task Force was well representative of industry, academia, teachers and Engineers Ireland. Vice Chair of the Task Force was President of NUIG Professor Jim Browne a Past President of Engineers Ireland. We set to work in late 2009 and it wasn't long before we realised that the principal challenge for Maths was not at Leaving Cert but earlier at Junior Cycle.

One of the key issues is that most Second Level Maths teachers had no sufficient qualification in Maths. They have a degree in an allied subject like Biology, Physics or Chemistry or another numerate language like Accountancy or Music. They may be excellent teachers in their core subjects but with no particular love or passion for Maths. These ‘out of field’ Maths teachers were invariably assigned to the Junior Cycle classes by School Principals whereas more qualified Math teachers were assigned to Leaving Cert classes.

Secondly we found that there was no 'joined up thinking' between Primary and Secondary education in Ireland. There was and still no national assessment of students at the end of Primary level and therefore no 'report card' for pupils to bring onto their new secondary school teachers. The respective primary and secondary teachers never meet. I thought this whole lack of asset management of the primary school student to be quite extraordinary and a systemic failure in the 'duty of care' we owe to our children. I understand that the new Second Level curriculum now deals with the necessary overlap with Primary Level.

Engineers Ireland President Dr. Chris Horn (second from left) launching the Engineers Ireland Report on Mathematics and Science, together with Teacher Reviewers Aoibhinn Ní Shúilleabháin and Sarah Green with Engineers Ireland Vice President PJ Rudden, who was author of the Report and Eamon Prendergast, Engineers Ireland.
With regard to the then falling interest in Hons Maths at Leaving Cert this was found to be unsurprising as only about 40% were taking Hons at Junior Cycle level so it was inevitable that less than half that number would go on to take Hons at Leaving Cert.

In 2010 bonus points were introduced for grades at or above D in Leaving Cert Hons Maths. As a consequence the numbers taking Hons at both Junior and Leaving Cert level have swelled at least temporarily. While this may well prove to be simply a temporary 'quick fix', it does not deal with the fundamental problem of the need for better teaching and a more in depth understanding of the role that Maths has in creating the innovation agenda that will drive economic growth and jobs in the future.

The new Project Maths is based on a contextual understanding of how maths helps to solve the problems of everyday life. This is best illustrated by engineers who intuitively use maths every day to solve the problems of traffic, water supply, telecommunications, energy, smart phones and so on. It is therefore a long term project which will take a generation to embed in students who will eventually filter into the employment world. While some rote learning is needed from an early age (eg 5 or 6 times tables) Project Maths is more graphical than before and shows an increasing everyday relevance to everyday life.




Thursday, 5 December 2013

EGA Engineers hold Mock Interviews

Last year the Engineering Graduates Association decided to assist Final Years by conducting Mock Graduate Interviews for those graduates who wished to avail of this service. These interviews were kindly organised by Karina O'Neill Marketing Manager for the College of Engineering and Architecture. We conducted such interviews in October 2013 and we have more planned on Saturday 8th February 2014.
While the student uptake of this service was low last year I'm pleased to say that it has now grown to be very popular with Final Years. This is not surprising as it’s a highly useful service of which all Final Year students should avail to improve their prospects of early employment after graduation.
To have the benefit of scrutiny of your CV and career progress to date by a senior peer engineer prior to Employer Interview will be of great value.
Courtesy of Education-Portal.com
Firstly the student will get advice on CV preparation to focus on strengths and emphasise positive personal achievements to date. Secondly to be questioned on the quality of your career to date will identify any gaps in learning and experience for any likely employment. Thirdly it will give the student greater confidence to face his or her employment interviews.
I am very grateful to the EGA Board members who conducted these interviews on a Saturday morning in their spare time. The interviews have been led by senior Board Members Michael Loughnane, Ann Fingleton, Donal Wyse and Tony O'Brien.
The UCD Final Year students will be the richer for this positive life experience. I wish them well as they prepare for their Finals in 2014 and exit from college into the world of work experience.
Those who have switched to the new 5 year Masters programme (a prerequisite for Chartered Engineer status with Engineers Ireland post 2013) will have a further opportunity to train with mock interviews in 2014/15.

This area of career development is deemed of great importance to the EGA and for that reason we intend inviting the UCD Head of Careers to the next Board meeting in January 2014.