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The Undergraduate Awards: And the Overall 2012 Winner in the Field of Teacher Education is...

Patrick Burke receiving his Undergraduate Award from President Michael D. Higgins

Two months ago, the Mary Immaculate College community was delighted to hear the announcement that one of the College’s students, Patrick Burke, had been selected by a panel of international academics for one of the top prizes in the prestigious Undergraduate Awards competition. Open to students in their final or penultimate year on a degree course, the Undergraduate Awards “reward innovation, independent thinking and creativity within coursework across all academic disciplines.” This year, the competition attracted 2890 entrants, from 92 institutions and 64 nationalities across a range of categories.

Patrick Burke graduated with a BEd in Education and Psychology from Mary Immaculate College last month and was the recipient of several awards at his conferring ceremony, including the College Gold Medal for achieving first place on his programme of study. Patrick is currently teaching in Scoil Chormaic Community National School in Balbriggan (North Co. Dublin). 

Patrick had been informed that he was to receive his award from President Michael D. Higgins as the Irish winner within the Teacher Education category at the Undergraduate Awards Ceremony 2012. While there were awards made to International winners and Irish winners in separate categories, it was announced at the event that Patrick was the overall winner in his particular category. 

The title of Patrick’s Undergraduate Award-winning essay was, "Rewarding results in reading, ‘riting and ‘rithmetic: Literacy and numeracy today and during payment-by-results in Irish primary schools (1872-1899)". 

The Judges’ commentary was particularly impressive. It stated: “This essay provided the panel with a masterclass on how to clearly demonstrate independent thinking, originality and academic excellence. At every stage of the judging process this entry came out on top- it was a clear winner.  The paper revisits the controversial ‘Payment by Results’ system, which was evident in Ireland during the late 1800s, to warn contemporary educational policy makers that the failures of this crude form of teacher accountability could potentially be repeated and consequently stifle, rather than enhance, future curriculum provision/development. With a focus on the core areas of literacy and numeracy, the writer in his own words, ‘identifies parallels with current policies and charts where these policies might ultimately lead’. While the attention is on Ireland, crucially the writer takes account of similar global policy directives to ensure that the message conveyed has a worldwide relevance. In short, this paper is essential reading for all charged with improving educational standards in schools and the value placed on teachers.”

Following the Awards ceremony, Patrick commented: “It was brilliant to have the opportunity to meet fellow teachers and educationalists at the Undergraduate Awards summit, but also to meet with those from categories like psychology, engineering and mathematics. I would like to thank Professor O’Doherty and Professor Wall, as well as other MIC staff, whose lectures provided the starting point for the essay I entered.”

Dean of Education at MIC, Prof. Teresa O’Doherty, said, “We would like to congratulate Patrick on his selection as the overall winner within the Teacher Education category, which recognises the excellence and innovation of his coursework at undergraduate level.”

Prof. Michael A Hayes, President of Mary Immaculate College, responded to the announcement by saying, “This is a wonderful achievement both for Patrick and the College. It is a great honour for us as one of our students is recognised in this way.  Patrick is an excellent example of the quality of our graduates.”

Patrick Burke, BEd in Education & Psychology (2008-2012) with Prof. Teresa O’Doherty, Dean of Education and Prof. Eugene Wall, Vice-President Academic Affairs at the presentation in the Royal Hospital, Kilmainham

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