independent

Monday 21 April 2014

The points system doesn't prove anything but an ability to regurgitate information

The benefits of the new college entry system, which is being trialled by Trinity College from 2014, are far-reaching and represent a potentially huge shift in how students gain entry to third level education.

At present the Leaving Certificate is largely based on rote learning and gambling on the basis of past papers. It is not developing our students as people, rather producing young people who are taught to regurgitate information.

The Irish Second Level Students' Union (ISSU) strongly supports this pioneering initiative and would like to complement Trinity College on its development. Relying on a single test for admittance is certainly not best practice and this is recognised internationally.

Across the world, as students sit final year exams while applying to university, they are simultaneously given the opportunity to submit essaysthat reflect the type of person they are.

We old-fashioned Irish are yet to establish such an eclectic system, however the new feasibility study being launched by Trinity College has potential to offer just that.

Provided there are controls, there is no reason that this trial cannot be a success. It will shift the focus away from being purely about what points some students achievey. Invariably, it will aid those who may not be quite capable of achieving the competitive points required, but who do demonstrate a greater aptitude and interest in the subject area, and/or perform well in comparison to their school peers.

In recent years, more project-based work has been introduced to some Leaving Cert subjects and this should be commended and expanded. However at present several subjects come down to one single exam, which may not reflect the student's true ability.

With the present Leaving Cert we are basically disregarding the qualities that are encouraged in higher education; lateral thinking, creativity and individuality. The pressure that students experience from all corners of society is undoubtedly having a detrimental effect on their 'one day' exam performance that essentially shapes their future.

As I click 'submit' on my Common Application Form for college applications in the US I can't help to wonder why such a fair and effective process is not in place in Ireland.

Will I be denied entry to a top university in the US because I didn't achieve a perfect score in SAT, the standardised test for college admissions in the US ? Not necessarily. I can still hold my hopes high as my application will be reviewed by a plethora of people who are not taking just one thing into consideration. They will be examining everything, including essays, extra-curricular involvement, teacher evaluations along with scores in SAT, which I sat some months ago.

The sooner Ireland says farewell to the infamous CAO points entry system as it currently exists, the sooner second-level students can feel a lot more secure about their futures.

Dylan Grace is president of the Irish Second-Level Students Union (ISSU) and a sixth-year student at Gaelcholáiste Luimnigh.

Irish Independent

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