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Speech by the Taoiseach, Mr. Brian Cowen T.D., at the Launch of the D2D Project between Killina Presentation School, Georgia Tech Research Institute, Atlantic Corridor and NIS Rahan, Co. Offaly, on Monday, 6 September, 2010 at 11.45

 

A dhaoine uaisle,

Tá an-áthas orm a bheith anseo libh inniu ag seoladh an tionscadail urghnách seo.

Ón gcuairt dheiridh a thug mé ar an scoil, tá a fhios agam gur scoil forbarthach í Meánscoil na Toirbhirte Choill an Átha agus gur scoil í a bhíonn í gconaí ag féachaint chun cinn. Tá sí oscailte do smaointe, tionscadail agus turgnaimh nua. Tá an mheanma dearfach seo de dhíth go mór sa tréimhse dhúshlánach seo!

I am delighted to be here today to launch Direct 2 Discovery (D2D). This is a very exciting project. It is pushing beyond the limits of traditional teaching and giving students in a rural Irish classroom direct, real-time access to world-class scientists and their labs on the GeorgiaTech Campus in Atlanta.

This is a perfect example of the kind of novel, innovative approaches to learning that my Government is trying to encourage. As you know, we have set out a vision for renewing our economy - based on the concept of a 'Smart Economy'.

We want to make Ireland:
- the best place in Europe to turn research and knowledge into products and services;
- the best place in Europe to start and grow an innovative company;
- the best place in Europe to relocate or expand and scale an SME; and
- the best place in Europe for research-intensive multinationals to collaborate with each other and with clusters of small companies.

The Smart Economy applies to everyone. It is about thinking smarter and working smarter. It means being open to new ideas and new ways of doing things. And, importantly, it is about building links between the education system and the wider economy.

Ireland is making progress toward a knowledge-based economy. But, we must continue to lift the level of interest and participation by young people in science right across the country. We will need a lot of Scientists, Engineers and Mathematicians if we are to realise our vision and I would encourage all young people to consider a career in these areas.

Ireland is also home to important digital media and Internet-based companies, with many of the world leaders like Google, Microsoft and eBay now located here. These companies offer excellent careers and require technically skilled, multilingual graduates in order to develop and grow their businesses here.

Despite the economic difficulties, we continue to invest in education. Over the next 6 years we will provide 70,000 additional places in our primary schools and 15,000 places at post-primary level. In the next two years, 730 of those schools will have hyper-fast broadband enabling, hopefully, more students around the country to experience similarly exciting new ways of learning to the students here in Rahan.

We have also introduced a revised primary curriculum in Mathematics which is working well. Project Maths, which showed encouraging results in this years' Leaving Certificate, is being implemented in all secondary schools from this month. Revised curricula have been introduced for science subjects and the Discover Science and Engineering Programme has helped in engaging primary and secondary school students in science. All of which is evidenced by the increasing demand for third-level science courses through the CAO.

At university level and beyond, we are investing heavily to develop our national research capacity, to translate that research excellence into products and services and to create high-quality, sustainable new jobs.

Despite the very difficult economic climate, we are making this unprecedented investment on behalf of our young people so that when they leave the education system, they leave equipped with the skills to create the businesses and do the jobs of the future.

Conclusion
GeorgiaTech Research Institute is one of the United States most distinguished universities. Last June, I was delighted to launch the Translational Research Centre between Georgia Tech, UL and NUIG.

Indeed there is even some crossover between the projects with NUIG lending D2D a hand today with the live link up to Australia that we are about to see.

Dr. Jeff Evans and Jessica Paeter of GeorgiaTech are with us here this morning and I would like to take this opportunity to say a special word of thanks to them for the excellent work they are doing here in Ireland.

I know that this morning's launch marks a new beginning but it is also the culmination of hard work by many people over the last number of months. I would like, especially, to take this opportunity to pay tribute to school Principal Michael Nolan and his staff - with a special mention for teachers Joe Varley and Maureen Connaughton - who have been working closely with the project partners to bring out the full potential of their students by offering them an innovative and meaningful way of learning science.

Sincere thanks to John, Jackie and Brian at Atlantic Corridor not only for this project but, for all the other excellent work they are doing to promote and develop the Midlands. And, thanks also to Gerry Buckley and his team at NIS Limited whose support with the video-conferencing facilities is so crucial to the success of this project.

And of course to the pupils - I commend you for your enthusiasm in taking on this project. I wish you well with it and I hope that this unique learning experience will inspire new ambitions and open up new avenues of study that will lead you all into interesting and rewarding careers.

Rath Dé ar bhur guid oibre! Go raibh míle maith agaibh go léir.

 

ENDS