Reaping benefits of 50 years of free education
When Donogh O'Malley introduced the policy of free education half-a-century ago, only 16,500 students sat the Leaving Certificate that year, 1967 - most young people had left the education system long before that. Sadly, some never even made it to second level and dropped out with the minimum qualification of a primary certificate.
How things have changed. Free education is now deeply ingrained in the Irish psyche. This year nearly 60,000 are taking the examination and the vast majority of them will go on to higher or further education. In Mr O'Malley's day the total number of students in all of higher education was only 21,000. Now we are in an era of mass higher education with 180,000 full-time students and tens of thousands of others in further education and training.
The Leaving Certificate has become a rite of passage for over 90pc of our young people, but also a high stakes and high pressure exam. That's why the moves to ease the strain on students are to be welcomed.