By Tom Jowitt
A strike by lecturers and researchers has halted IT classes at 14 institutes of Technology across the Republic of Ireland.
It comes as the country heads into a general election later this month, in which the state of the Irish economy features heavily.
The one-day strike by 4,000 lecturers and researchers was called because of mounting concern over cuts to funding and staffing numbers.
According to the Irish Times, although most Institutes of Technology have remained open, the vast majority of classes and lectures have been cancelled.
It seems that the strike is supported by both students (Union of Students in Ireland) and the Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI), which in December voted by a margin of 92 percent in favor of a campaign of industrial action.
The strike comes after growing union concern at the rapid rise in students taking technology courses, as lecturer numbers have been cut. Indeed, the TUI reportedly says that there has been chronic underfunding of the sector with a 35 percent cut since 2008.
It reportedly said that “critically low” staffing levels in the sector at a time of steep increases in student numbers are placing an unacceptable workload on lecturers.
And it seems that the precarious employment status of many academic staff is another key issue.
The Irish Times cites the union as wanting a commitment from government to tackle the problems and greater engagement with the Department of Education.
Tech education has become an increasingly important subject in recent years for many governments around the world, as the proliferation of IT into everyday life continues.
Indeed, IT education is considered vital to ensure there are enough tech-savvy people to keep industries going. Successive governments have provided blueprints and strategies, and in 2013, the U.K. government rebooted the national curriculum in hopes of getting more kids interested in programming.
A year later, in 2014, the British government launched a campaign to improve the computer literacy of both teachers and students ahead of the introduction of the new school curriculum.