Education will be key factor in our resurgence


To say that we will feel the ramifications of the announcements made in recent weeks – both good and bad – for years ahead would qualify as a bit of an understatement.
Whether it was the announcement of the horrendous figure for the misadventures and reckless greed of Anglo, AIB and Nationwide, or the launch of the positive plan to generate 300,000 jobs over the next five years by increasing our exports and the smart economy, much of the shape of the next four to five years was set this week.
And that’s even before considering the last two opinion polls.
While I was tempted to use today’s piece to deal with either the polls or Anglo, I have decided not to. There are three reasons for this.
First, these issues are not going away. Whether it’s the cost of Anglo or the future of Enda there will be plenty left to say in the weeks and months ahead.
Secondly, there will be no shortage of economists and assorted self-anointed experts giving their views in print and on the airwaves this weekend to drive anyone demented.
The third reason…. well it is more important that the other two combined. Over the past few weeks I have received a number of very positive and constructive messages via my Facebook page.
One such message from a chap called Alan, sent in response to my suggestion of entrepreneur visas, particularly caught my attention. Not only was he supportive of my idea, he went further and suggested  I look at a number of other related ideas including something which is currently up and running in London. I have been doing that and will be writing about these here over the next few weeks.
The connecting factor between all these ideas is the crucial importance of education to Ireland’s return to dynamic growth.
This should come as no great finding to anyone. Education was the key factor in our resurgence in the 90s – and so it will be again. But when I talk about education now, I do not just mean that educating our young people is vital, I mean that the sector itself is important. The education industry itself it a major potential source of revenue for the country.
It was why I was very pleased to see the Government announce its plans to increase the number of foreign students coming here to attend universities and learn English by about a third over the next 5 years.
At the moment we earn about €900million a year from foreign students. The government plans to increase that to over €1.2 billion. In these straightened times an extra €300million a year comes in very handy, but there is a second upside – one I mentioned in an article I wrote here at the end of June:
“it would nurture positive relationships and attitudes to Ireland for those coming to study here when they return to senior management and leadership roles back at home.”
It is precisely this type of creative thinking and positive planning now that will return us to prosperity. Yes, these plans will take a few years to come to full fruition, but the work has started. Is that not what hope and confidence in the future is about?
Be it the 30% increase in foreign students or the 300,000 jobs based on investment – all of these announcements are intended to show that Ireland is about a lot more than bad banks and even worse bankers.
Yes there is a costly route map to getting the banking system back to what it should have been doing, but more important there is also a comprehensive plan to restore Ireland’s capacity for progress and prosperity.
Yes, the nightly news will be full of stories of bad debts, impaired loans and fluctuating interest rates for weeks and months ahead, but maybe some room can be made to remind the rest of the world that Ireland is looking to the future with confidence.

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