Pupils and parents to get a say in Junior Cert reforms
PUPILS and their parents are getting a say in what changes are needed in the Junior Certificate.
Education Minister Mary Coughlan yesterday launched a consultation process on how students can get more out of the early years at second-level.
While consultation is now embedded in the change process in education, it is the first time pupils have been asked for their views.
Government education advisers have drawn up a discussion paper on change, which highlights the need for greater flexibility in teaching and learning.
Now the proposals are being put out for wider debate and feedback, with views invited through various methods, including a blog, as well as face-to-face meetings.
Research has identified a number of problems with the Junior Cert years, which contribute to student disengagement and early school drop out.
Curriculum overload, with students taking up to 14 subjects, not enough time for in-depth learning and the excessive influence of an exam that is of diminishing importance are among the issues that have been raised.
A disconnect between primary and second-level also leaves many students spending their first year at post-primary repeating what they already know.
A child-centred approach to teaching in primary schools, combined with Leaving Certificate reforms, have left the 21-year-old Junior Certificate programme out of step.
The National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) discussion paper sets out a range of possible directions for junior cycle, from small to significant levels of change.
Proposals include taking the emphasis off a single-terminal exam and putting the focus on continuous assessment.
Another idea is to offer qualification at this stage such as a Further Education and Training Awards Council (FETAC) Level 3 or 4 certificate in modules such as computer skills or even horticulture.
When the consultation process is complete later this year, the NCCA plans to pilot some of the new ideas in schools, although certain changes, such as exam reform, would require a political decision.
Launching the consultation, Ms Coughlan noted that almost 9,000 students drop out of education before the Leaving Certificate each year.
She said reform must result in a more active learning experience for individuals, promote real understanding and get away from rote learning to enable students become independent learners.
"The period of the junior cycle is such an important one in the formative years of our young people. The skills they learn and the outlook they develop will impact greatly on their individual futures," Ms Coughlan added.