Two DCU initiatives supported by philanthropy are through to the final round of the Times Higher Education Awards: the STEM Teacher Internship (STInt) programme and the Bachelor of Education – Irish Sign Language Pathway.
The Bachelor of Education – ISL Pathway is a pathway into primary teaching for Deaf ISL-users. This initiative, titled “Education for All: Broadening Education for ISL Users,” was shortlisted for the Times Higher Education Awards Widening Participation or Outreach Initiative of the Year category.
Before the creation of this pathway, Deaf signers struggled to gain entry to teacher education in Ireland because of the Irish language requirement – a subject from which Deaf students are typically exempt, and which is not taught in schools for Deaf children. The Bachelor of Education – ISL Pathway was created to address a clear need for a cohort of Deaf signing teachers to work with Deaf signing pupils.
The pathway is supported with funding from the Higher Education Authority’s Programme for Access to Higher Education Fund, on behalf of the Department of Education. Thanks to philanthropic support from Folens and Reach Deaf Services, Deaf students on the Bachelor of Education (B.Ed) programme are also provided with transformative scholarships to support them in their studies. In the coming weeks, Ireland’s first Deaf student teachers will celebrate their graduation from DCU Institute of Education.
Dr Elizabeth Mathews, School of Inclusive and Special Education at DCU Institute of Education commented:
“This project is of immense importance both in terms of the equity it affords Deaf students on entering teacher education and the potential to change the lives of Deaf pupils in the school system. Being shortlisted for a THE award recognises on an international stage the great work done by all our programme leadership, lecturing and support colleagues across the B.Ed in widening participation to include Deaf students.”
The STInt programme has been shortlisted for the Times Higher Education Awards Knowledge Exchange/Transfer Initiative of the Year.
STInt is a DCU initiative that provides 12-week paid immersive STEM learning experiences for teachers in companies across Ireland, equipping them with first-hand experience of STEM careers in industry and the application of STEM in real-world contexts.
STInt has grown from a DCU pilot initiative in 2016, with one host company and five interns, to a national initiative transforming both teacher education and STEM participation. In 2023, over 60 pre-service STEM teachers from across seven Irish universities completed STInt internships with 47 host companies in sectors spanning pharmaceuticals and MedTech, to research, energy and financial and professional services. Funding from our partners Skillnet Ireland, Science Foundation Ireland and Intel is facilitating the further development of the STInt Programme over the next three years.
Commenting on the announcement, Dr Eilish McLoughlin, STInt Programme Director and Head of School of Physical Sciences at DCU said:
“We need to address inequities in education, specifically issues of diversity, equity and inclusion in STEM education, which negatively affect diversity and inclusion in STEM professions and careers. The STInt programme has grown over the past eight years to address these issues at a national level through collaborative partnerships between teachers, universities and industry. Together, these partnerships provide unique opportunities for STEM teachers to shape shared futures for STEM education in Ireland.”
Prof Deirdre Butler, STInt Programme Director and Professor in Digital Learning at DCU said:
“Our world and educational systems are constantly evolving to address new challenges and demands faced by society. Education must prepare young people to innovate and to address problems that were not even imagined at the dawn of the 21st century. The STInt programme inspires teachers to design innovative learning opportunities in primary and secondary schools across Ireland and empowers STEM learners with the knowledge and competencies to thrive in our ever-changing complex world.”
The winners of the Times Higher Education Awards will be announced at a ceremony in Liverpool on Thursday 7th December 2023. Both programmes are currently seeking new philanthropic funding to further their impact in transforming lives and society.