Online marking proposal may solve dispute on Junior Cert
A university president said technology could provide a solution to the impasse between teacher unions and Education Minister Ruairi Quinn over changes to the Junior Certificate.
Many teachers fundamentally oppose the move to replace the traditional, independently marked Junior Cert with a system of assessing their own students for a school certificate, called the Junior Cycle Student Award.
A suggestion from Dublin City University (DCU) president Professor Brian MacCraith reflects how the new arrangements will embed technology into the teaching, learning and assessment of Junior Cycle students.
As part of the radical changes, there will be a switch from reliance on written exams to a focus on students, across a range of subjects, submitting a digital portfolio or making a multimedia presentation, for which they will receive marks.
Many assessments will be done online and teachers' concerns could be overcome by uploading the work of students and asking another school to mark it, according to Prof MacCraith.
Prof MacCraith said technology could facilitate the assessment of students' work by teachers in another school, which could be done on an anonymous basis.
The DCU president also recommends a rigorous external validation of quality, such as happens in third-level, to support the assessments provided by students' own lecturers.
Second-level school managers have already suggested that the State Examinations Commission could be given such a role, sampling perhaps 3pc-5pc of papers to ensure consistency in marking.
Prof MacCraith delivered his remarks in an address to the Association of Community and Comprehensive Schools (ACCS) on key issues for 21st-century education in Ireland. He said students were "digital natives" who had grown up in a "Google" world, and were now engaging with information in a radically different way.
They learned best as active participants rather than passively and assessment practice had to reflect that rather than what they could "capture at the back of the brain", he said.
An enthusiastic supporter of the proposed changes, he said he was reassured to hear that teachers were not against reform.
But Prof MacCraith said teachers were feeling bruised and there was a need to listen to their concerns and for society to show how much it valued their work.
Changes will be phased in from September, although the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland and the Teachers' Union of Ireland have banned co-operation with key elements, after ballots by members in favour of industrial action.
From April 7, they will refuse to participate in any training or preparation associated with the reforms and have pledged not to deliver new subjects.
ACCS general secretary Ciaran Flynn told the conference that he was "very disappointed" at the decision to ban co-operation with the changes and said there was a need to work at addressing the fears teachers had around the new regime.