Irish News

Friday 11 July 2014

Revealed: Details of major shake-up to CAO points race

Katherine Donnelly

Published 27/03/2013|13:24

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Education Minister Ruairi Quinn
Education Minister Ruairi Quinn

A MAJOR shake up in the points system will be phased in for students entering fifth year in September 2014.

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Changes being made in three key areas are designed to take the heat out of the points race.

While final decisions have yet to be made, Education Minister Ruairi Quinn announced commitments to:

- reduce the number of honours degree programmes into more broadly based courses with students specialising later;

- remove predictability out of exams so students can't guess questions in advance;

- cut the number of Leaving Cert grades allocated

Moves to overhaul the college entry process arose from concerns that the points system forces students to “learn to the test”.

Leaving Certificate students relying on their performance in the June exams endure punishing study regimes in order to gain an extra five or 10 extra marks that will give them the edge on other candidates.

The points system is praised for its transparency, but critics say the rote learning that it encourages is to the detriment of students’ education.

It has emerged that there is an over-reliance by teachers on previous years’ papers as a basis for exam preparation rather than assisting student to develop critical thinking skills.

There is also evidence that students select certain subjects because they are seen to be easier for achieving points.

Advocates for change say the current system not only affects the quality of learning at second-level, but leaves students ill-equipped for the rigours of third-level.

The Higher Education Authority (HEA), the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment ( NCCA), the Irish Universities Association (IUA) , the Institutes of Technology  Ireland (IoTI) and the State Examinations Commission (SEC) are all involved in the change process.

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