Sunday 25 September 2016

'Unexciting' but 'successful' - English papers get Leaving Cert off to 'comfortable' start

Katherine Donnelly Education Editor

Published 03/06/2015 | 13:33

Quiet time: Arrive early for your exam
Quiet time: Arrive early for your exam

An unexciting, if comfortable, paper was how teacher, Jim Lusby described the Leaving Certificate English Higher Level Paper 1.

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He said the first paper of the Leaving Cert, English Paper 1 “shouldn’t be challenging in an unexpected way, but it should be challenging in the sense of being inspiring and stimulating for students”.

Mr Lusby of Dublin’s Institute of Education described the Comprehension Section as immensely comfortable for the well-prepared student.

He said that though the general theme of the paper – challenges was promising, none of the three Comprehension texts was a particularly good example of “fine writing”.

“Each was mildly interesting and accessible. Nevertheless, the Comprehension questions set on these texts were all immensely comfortable for the well-prepared student, and although predictability is not necessarily a virtue, the comfort of familiarity is always welcome in the first examination paper of the Leaving Certificate” he said.

The first text was  Bono’s speech to students graduating from the University of Pennsylvania, while  the second was an article by novelist Joanne Briscoe on the challenges of writing ghost stories, described by Mr Lusby as “vaguely interesting, but of limited appeal”. The third text, novelist Penelope Lively’s reflections on growing old,  was, he said,  “a routine topic that was treated in a routine manner”

Of Question B  - the letter, article, and introduction to book -  Mr Lusby said it continued to lag behind the times for most young people, “few of whom ever write such pieces and most of whom who express themselves in quite different forms”. 

However Mr Lusby said the topics in Question B however were interesting and relevant with some imaginative material , including a letter to a school principal disagreeing with a decision not to hold a graduation ceremony for Leaving Certificate students, a discussion on a  favourite fiction genre, and an introduction to a collection of writing by young people about older people. 

Her described the Essay section as “by far the most impressive and successful section of an otherwise unexciting, if comfortable, paper. There was, he said, an interesting range of topics within the expected genres.

Meanwhile, the Leaving Certificate English Ordinary Level Paper 1 has been described as “very successful” , with a general theme of parents/guardians that “ would have been immediately familiar and comforting for all candidates, but also intriguing and inviting” by Lusby.

He said the three texts presented candidates with really enjoyable pieces of writing from Irish authors Roddy Doyle, Brendan O’Carroll and Christine Dwyer Hickey, “although some of the many non-Irish nationals taking our Ordinary Level English Paper I might have been” a little fazed by the consistently green hue of the material”.   The comprehension questions set on the texts were “pretty near perfect – accessible, but stimulating”.

Mr Lusby thought the  Question B tasks - a letter of application, a podcast on injustice, and diary entries about a misunderstanding in the student's life  -  allowed candidates the freedom for engaging self-expression within familiar genres.

“Similarly, the composition assignments – on deception, difficulty, responsibility and passions – were generous and stimulating” he said.

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