News Education

Friday 22 August 2014

English Paper One: Heaney appears as expected

Katherine Donnelly Education Editor

Published 04/06/2014 | 13:59

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THERE he was, ready and waiting for Leaving Certificate English Higher Level candidates to help settle their nerves on the first morning of the exams

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After Seamus Heaney’s untimely death last August, students and teachers were guessing, and hoping, that he was a sure fire thing for this year’s exams.  They were right.

While best remembered as a poet – and that paper doesn’t come up until tomorrow - it was one of his essays that made an appearance on today’s comprehension and composing paper.

Jim Lusby of the Institute of Education, Dublin described the higher level paper as “perfectly pleasant and comfortable”, but with disappointing omissions and inclusions.

He said it contained three contemporary and engaging texts on the theme of influence:  an extract from an American novel, Richard Ford’s Canada, edited journalistic texts and a lecture by the late Seamus Heaney

While he described the comprehensions questions – on content and style – as “comfortable for any well-prepared student, he said “the omission of questions on visual literary was a shock. 

“For the first time ever, the paper as a whole excluded exploration of the visual.  Since visual literacy is a core component of the syllabus and an essential skill for those of us living in the 21st century, the omission is disturbing”.

Mr Lusby also said an apparent reluctance to move with the times was also evident in the Question B tasks, one of which required candidates to write a letter, a form of communication that he said was largely outdated. 

“Moreover, the phrasing of the questions was cumbersome – the definition of the letter task, for instance, taking exactly 100 words, half the amount some candidates will write in response to it”, he said.

He described the composition titles as “pleasant, if predicable, though it was nice to see a return of the descriptive essay as an option”.

Some very familiar faces too on the Ordinary Level paper with “interesting people” the theme of the comprehension section and as choice of texts that included an edited extract from Roy Keane’s autobiography, and plucky Pakistani teenager, Malala Yousafzai’s book.

Mr Lusby described the ordinary level paper as “ lovely” and  “very accessible”.

He said the  range and quality of texts was impressive and the accompanying questions provided a perfect platform for students to perform well, while the Question  B writing tasks – a talk, a letter and an article – posed no problems. 

“In praise of this year’s paper - two questions were given that required students to demonstrate visual literacy skills.  One question invited students to appraise two images of Roy Keane and another asked them to analyse different book covers.  Great questions to get students thinking,” he said

Mr Lusby was similarly complimentary of  composition section, which,  he said,  featured a range of titles both relevant and appealing to young adults. 

“The emphasis was on writing narrative essays based about personal experiences.  Perfect for ordinary level candidates.”

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