Life Learning

Sunday 31 August 2014

Teacher unions to ballot on strike action over Junior Cert reform

JEROME REILLY

Published 02/03/2014 | 02:30

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TEACHERS in two unions, the ASTI and TUI, will begin balloting on industrial action tomorrow as Education Minister Ruairi Quinn strongly defended his planned reforms of the Junior Cert.

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Last week, the Education Minister defended his proposed overhaul of the examination, saying that while the Government is intent on consulting with teachers and is aware of their concerns, it can't allow them to hold up the reforms.

The reforms are due to kick in from next year, when teachers will have a new English syllabus for exams in 2018. However, the two teachers' unions are threatening industrial action over the changes.

The reform plan involves new ways of teaching with greater use of technology, new forms of assessment and new "short courses" in subjects like Chinese and computer programming. It also involves the gradual replacement of the traditional state exams and the Junior Certificate with in-school assessment of students by their own teachers, culminating in a Junior Cycle Student Award (JCSA).

Ballot results are expected on March 26. Teachers are also organising a lunchtime protest on Tuesday, March 11, to voice their concerns.

Teachers are implacably opposed to assessing or marking their own students.

Under the new JCSA, 60 per cent of marks will go to an exam at the end of third year, while the other 40 per cent will be awarded in second and third year for in-school projects and portfolios.

Minister Quinn believes it is time to to move away from the pressurised exam for 15-year-olds which involves lots of rote learning, to a system with continual in-school assessment from second year.

Teacher unions say they will not mark their own students. They fear parents lobbying them, inconsistencies in the system and inequalities between schools.

However, the Department of Education argues that TUI members assess more than 100,000 students every year across numerous education sectors.

Earlier this year, Mr Quinn announced a slow-down in the timetable for reform as well as the allocation of some extra resources, but unions said the measures did not go far enough.

Sunday Independent

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