Editorial: Taking heat out of the CAO points race will help students
THE 57,000 or so Leaving Certificate candidates expecting their results on Wednesday know well the pressure they endured in senior cycle. The high levels of stress that many experience are, in the main, an unintended consequence of what is always defended as the "blunt but fair" CAO points system.
Student stress was well documented in ESRI research, where sixth years reported sleepless nights as they worried about where they would end up in the "points race". Would a good student be left five points short because of a minor exam slip-up?
After 13 or 14 years in school, students are not being served well by the reliance on a single set of exams over 13 days in June. And the way their grades are translated into CAO points, to determine who gets a place in college, and what place they get, doesn't help. Apart from the pressure, there is evidence that the rote learning that the exam system engenders, as pupils memorise answers that will garner those points, leaves students unprepared for the academic demands of third level, and the critical-thinking skills required in adult life.
Change is needed, but so too is caution, in order to avoid making a bad situation worse. An Irish Universities Association document is the latest contribution to a process of reform initiated three years ago, and it is a welcome one, raising issues for debate both inside the universities, where any proposed changes must be approved, and outside.
That the current reform process is the first "joined-up" attempt to improve the points system, by all the agencies at the interface between second and third-level, augurs well.
Gardai need resources to tackle drug scourge
ALL too often in the justice sector, major initiatives have a less than billed impact.
If it's not political or legislative overreach, or both, the best-laid plans are routinely felled by inadequate resources.
That the work of a small, eight-person unit of undercover gardai has led to the arrest of more than 3,000 people involved in the drugs trade is a cause for both celebration and frustration.
The Test Purchase Unit (TPU), also known as the "Mockie Squad" - mock junkies - pose as drug addicts to infiltrate local drug cells and entrap dealers.
The TPU, relative to its small size, has achieved commendable success.
It has shown how targeted, intelligent policing can infiltrate the nefarious world of drug dealing and eliminate or at least seriously disrupt dealers' deadly operations.
But the prosecution and conviction of drug suppliers and dealers requires more than one unit, which cannot carry out more than one investigation at any given time.
All over the country, local communities are crying out to the Government for help in tackling the scourge of drugs, which has claimed the lives of so many young people.
The rural town of Roscrea, Co Tipperary, is just one area that has demanded action in recent times.
There are many more.
There are many competing demands on garda management resources, but proven initiatives must not be compromised.
Targeted resources deployed to disrupt the supply of illegal drugs have immense benefits. There may be upfront costs but - compared to the unspeakable human cost to addicts, their families and communities torn apart by drug abuse - this is money well spent.