The current education system in Ireland, at both second and third level, brings with it a number of implications. One such implication is the highly worrying physical health and fitness levels of many of our young people.
Though our education system may be considered one of the best in Europe, it has major flaws. These flaws lie in the very structure of the entire system.
The second level education system, as it currently stands, is based on a combination of rote learning and predictions of what is going to come up in those torturous exams at the end of the year by which, as a result of the structure of the education system as a whole, a large proportion of students feel their entire future is decided.
Therefore, physical health and activity from this point onwards fades away gradually in to complete insignificance. For a great deal of students, cramming for hours on end each day becomes the priority: The centre-point around which the rest of their life hinges.
It is as though the current education system in Ireland is setting up the young people of Ireland for inevitable failure, for a future which they never necessarily asked for and in reality can do very little to actually change.
Perhaps it is the case, therefore, that the third level education system must now merely pick up the pieces of the mess that the second level education system left in their wake.
According to statistics from the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland, ninety percent of our population is going to be overweight or obese by 2030. Also, according to similar statistics from the college, two out of every three adults in Ireland are, currently, obese.
Though Irish colleges are not, legally or otherwise, obliged to take any responsibility for the health and fitness levels of its students, it is now an issue which they must address, whether they like it or not. They must put back together the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle that was never assembled correctly in the first place by the very people whose primary responsibility it was to do exactly that.
Dublin Institute of Technology has a very successful and highly impressive sports and recreation service which is responsible for the Fit2Go club in DIT. This is a state of the art fitness centre which has locations on Kevin Street, Bolton Street and Grangegorman. It employs four professional, full-time leisure attendants and five part-time ones. Although, they run student packages, on a ‘pay as you go’ basis, which allows students to avail of a fitness class for just four euro and a gym visit for 4.50 euro, an annual, all-inclusive membership will cost you 140 euros.
Similarly, University College Dublin run fitness classes, for UCD students, staff and also the general public, on a ‘pay as you go’ basis. These classes cost four euro. However, UCD students can participate in these classes for free if they have a valid student card. DCU students must pay 195 euros to become a member for the academic year.
Rebekah Tunstead, a first year student at DIT, thinks that membership fees should be reduced significantly. ‘I don’t know how we are supposed to encourage students to become more active if the facilities available for them in college to help them achieve this are too expensive to use’.
Though, the sports services and gym services offered to students in Irish colleges and universities are highly impressive and of the highest standard, the membership prices of some of these college gyms are not affordable for the majority of college students who are already crippled financially as it is.
Irish colleges and universities are responding, with qualified success, to the health and fitness crisis facing many of our young people. They are succeeding in providing students with top class, highly professional facilities that students can avail of, if they so wish, to become more active. The amount of money that many students must pay, however, to avail of such facilities is something that is certainly worth reviewing. Perhaps, the most important thing worth looking at, however, is the extent to which these services are, or are not, promoted actively on campus, as the case may be.