It’s that time of year again when the school year is beginning to close in and talk of exams are rife and yet another year has passed with no talk of returning to the nest.
When we left Ireland for Doha back in 2010, education for the children was just a matter of getting them into an English speaking school that had a nice uniform. After all, we believed that we’d be back in plenty of time for the Junior and Leaving Cert, a few years abroad would surely bridge the money issues and the kids would return to the Irish education system. So hopeful were we that this would be the case, that when I packed for Doha, in February, 2010, I packed the Bun go Barr’s for the current and upcoming years, we would keep up the ould Gaeilge at home and the reintroduction to Irish Secondary school would be seamless.
Five years on and home never look further away, we’re faced with having to take the iGCSE’s. For the past couple of years, I had shunned talks of the iGCSE’s, AS levels and A Levels, I never thought I would have to face the reality that not only is it looking highly unlikely that either of the children will sit the Junior or Leaving Cert, it’s now the case, that it’s too late for them to revert to their native education system.
All the invaluable knowledge I possess on the leaving certificate, wasted. All the advice I could have offered on filling out the CAO form, will never get heard. And I have great advice, from past experience I would publicly advise anyone not to put ‘Agricultural studies’ In Tralee down as a first choice, the CAO form is serious and any attempt at smart-alex-ness will certainly explode in your face on the day when the only offer you receive is indeed “agriculture in Tralee” because the second and third options were medicine and vetinary which you hadn’t the points (or nearly the points) for.
So now, firmly tethered to the British system, there is more at stake than losing the cupla focal or the bit of Irish history about Cuchulainn and Fionn McCool. If they’re out of the Irish education system for more than 8 years, are they classed as foreign students for university and if so are we, the parents, faced with an eternity of working the middle east, to either pay for university in the UK along with accommodate, travel, money for beans etc. or to pay massive university fees in Ireland because they are treated as foreign students? The reality begins to dawn, are these kids ever going to live in Ireland again?
Pregnant with this issue, it has now become necessary for me to learn the ins and outs of the iGSCE, AS levels and A levels. Secondary starts in year 7 and continues through to year 11, at the end of which are the iGCSE’s. Without getting the required results, B’s in the subjects you wish to continue and C’s in the others, it is not possible to continue to sixth form, years 12 & 13, so unlike the Junior Cert, which is a kind of warm up for the Leaving Cert, the GCSE’s matter, and certainly matter here in Doha, where is a very limited number of schools even providing sixth form. While their counterparts back in Ireland are scratching their heads, thinking of Athlone v’s Limerick, at the tender age of 16 our little Irish emigrants are considering leaving Doha for London, Johannesburg or Abu Dhabi to further their education. Meanwhile the ties to Ireland are slackening all the while.
Hit with a double whammy or having to emigrate and then being charged ‘concessionary’ fees for third level education when they return, it seems those that emigrate to excuse themselves from the dole queues get penalised on the double. Of the 45,000 thousand Irish that left in 2014, how many are children and how many will return?
So think carefully before you pluck little Caoimhe and Ciaran from the nest and promise them a short adventure away from home for a couple of years – the adventure may never end!