Meritocratic education system

Sir, – William Reville is right to praise the improved access to higher education for people of all socio-economic backgrounds (“Our meritocratic education system is serving us well,” Science Opinion, December 16). It is important that we recognize that getting a college degree should not be the only route to a job worthy of respect and a living wage. And that in today’s ‘meritocracy’, success (as it is currently defined) is much more dependent on luck (genes and the cultural background we are born into) than we often allow. – Yours, etc.,

COLM MAGEE,

Clontarf,

Dublin 3.

Sir, – Professor Reville is wrong to downplay the serious educational inequalities present in Irish education.

The third tier progression heat map through Dublin postcodes is a heat map of economic privilege, and while he is right to point to the significant progress made over the past 60 years in increasing rates of progression to the third level, I fear that this attitude breeds laxity in relation to what is a very serious problem. Indeed, he himself argues that the overrepresentation of affluent students in the top three courses he highlighted “will almost certainly soon change to reflect more equitable representation across the board.” Why is it likely, even certain, to change when we know that educational divides appear even before children enter primary school?

It’s unfair that our system doesn’t adequately help those less well-off to access some third-level (or even sometimes third-level) courses, but it’s also a huge waste, and therefore to the detriment of all of us. As corporation tax looks increasingly fragile, there are growing calls to make Ireland his talent. Why then do we waste half our talent?

As Michael Sandel argues in The Tyranny of Merit, one of its most insidious characteristics is that it convinces us that we “deserve” where we have arrived through hard work and neglect of the advantages we have achieved. thanks to nothing more than luck. Meritocracy is still the best system, but let’s not lose our sense of urgency to make it fairer. – Yours, etc.,

EOIN MacLACHLAN,

London.

Janice G. Ball