Sunday 23 April 2017

Teachers all agree change is needed - this new junior cycle will give very best education to pupils

Junior Cert students studying at East Wall in Dublin city
Junior Cert students studying at East Wall in Dublin city

Padraig Kirk

The wait comes to an end today for just over 60,000 students as they collect their Junior Certificate results - a momentous day. However, from next year, junior cycle students will start collecting a very different set of results, because the junior cycle is changing.

The Junior Certificate is being replaced by a Junior Cycle Profile of Achievement, or the JCPA. The JCPA will recognise a much wider set of student achievements. No longer will everything hinge on how a student performs in a written exam paper in June. Not that there is anything fundamentally wrong with final examinations. Indeed, they have their place and will continue to be an important feature of the new junior cycle. However, when exams become a major focus of what happens in classrooms this can have a negative effect on the teaching and learning. There is both national and international research that shows this to be the case. One of the aims of the new junior cycle is to shift the focus from the examination process to the actual learning that our students should be experiencing.

The current reform of the junior cycle is not a case of 'throwing the baby out with the bath water'. On the contrary, many of the really good aspects of the old system are being maintained. All of the different subjects that schools currently offer, for example, will remain in place, innovative teaching methods practised in classrooms will not change, while the State Examinations Commission (SEC) will continue to administer external exams. The new junior cycle simply takes all of these good aspects, builds on them and leaves us with a modern and progressive system of education for our young people.

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