Points race stifles learning and innovation -- employers
EMPLOYERS last night backed calls for an end to the Leaving Certificate points system for entry to third level.
It comes after new research shows that the points race is fostering a culture of cramming for the exam, while driving up stress levels to the point of sleeplessness among sixth-year students.
The findings from an in-depth study by the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) have triggered a call from the head of the Government's education advisory body for the points system to be replaced.
Professor Tom Collins, chair of the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA), criticised the system for promoting rote learning at second-level, while leaving students without the critical thinking skills necessary for third level.
He called for an end to the "race dimension" of the points system and for consideration to be given to options such as a lottery for students who meet the basic criteria for a course or a greater use of portfolios to demonstrate aptitude in a particular discipline.
Tony Donohoe, head of education policy with the employers' body IBEC, said business needed an education system that produced individuals who were adaptable, could think for themselves and had an appetite to learn.
"The Leaving Certificate and the accompanying points race, which is assessment and output-focused, fails to produce these skills, which are critical for the knowledge economy," he added.
Mr Donohue said business also wanted to see young people equipped with the education necessary to maximise their prospects.
He said that assessment was an integral part of the process and there was a need to ensure that there were robust and appropriate processes for gathering evidence of learning.
"However, the current system tends to stifle learning and innovation, and reward recall at the expense of understanding."
As almost 60,000 Leaving Certificate candidates and their families came towards the end of a long wait for their results, he said they should view the examination as the first step in a life of learning.
Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI) president Jack Keane said educational reform should aim to remedy current deficiencies while retaining the best of current practice and provision.
"The ASTI has campaigned for meaningful reform of the second-level education system, including the introduction of additional forms of assessment in the state examinations such as practical work, projects, and oral and aural examinations."
"The ASTI favours reform of the senior cycle which would reflect the broad range of learning experiences and achievements of students across a wide range of areas," he said.
Youthwork Ireland spokes- person Michael McLoughlin said that the process needed to look at the exam and syllabus in the broadest possible way and should involve young people by involving them in any changes.