Friday 28 October 2016

New points system will make college tougher to reach

Published 01/05/2015 | 02:30

College sign
College sign

I read with great confusion the recent article (Irish Independent, April 30) on the approved changes to the Leaving Certificate grading system. I completed the Leaving Certificate three years ago and the reforms that are to be implemented and the rationale behind them seem fundamentally unsound to me.

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It is proposed that the number of grade brackets be reduced from 14 to eight to "take the heat out of the 'points race'" and to allow for "greater distinction between student achievement and, ultimately, less random selection for a college place" than the current five-point grade brackets. It might be unclear to the Department for Education, however it seems logically untrue to say that reducing the amount of grades increases our ability to distinguish between students. Rather, quite the opposite will occur.

If you take a look at the CAO course offers from last year, you will see many courses with an asterisk beside the points required. It indicates that not everyone who got that exact points level has been offered a place and students on that point total were selected at random. All the approved changes will achieve is a reduction in the number of different grades and therefore the number of different permutations of point totals. Therefore more students will congregate on the same point total, increasing the number of students who will or will not get their desired course by random selection.

For all its flaws, the current system has merit. Whereas a student who narrowly misses out on a higher grade only loses five points, the consequence in the new system could be up to 15 points.

There is something seriously flawed in the department's claim that this will lead to greater distinction between student achievements. Increasing the cost in points of not succeeding in achieving a higher grade, as this system will do, will only fuel competition and pressure to achieve higher grades rather than reduce it.

It would be appreciated if the department could use the critical thinking skills they continually say me and my generation are lacking in to study the logic behind these changes, as they are completely fallacious.

The Leaving Certificate is stressful enough for our young people. Let's not make it worse by increasing the number of students who get or don't get a college course due to luck rather than individual merit.

James O'Callaghan

Dún Laoghaire, Co Dublin


Helping developing countries

I agree with much of Eamon Delaney's assertion that Ireland's annual contribution of €600m in aid to developing countries could be better used (Irish Independent, April 29). Natural disasters happen annually across the globe and often affect some of the world's poorest countries, while conflicts are common occurrences that lead to large displacements of people and - similar to natural disasters - usually result in hunger, thirst and disease.

Surely some of our aid money could be kept in reserve to deal with natural and man-made disasters in an ad hoc manner as the need arises, but on condition that the State gives a commitment to full use of the fund by the year end?

To avoid corrupt regimes siphoning off 'their share' of the money - and insofar as it is possible - it should be funnelled through trusted NGOs that have the logistical capabilities to carry out their work without state intervention. That way we could be sure that most of the money is going where it is deserved.

John Bellew

Dunleer, Co Louth


'No' campaign strategic error

Kate Bopp's letter (Irish Independent, April 30) shows that the 'No' campaign now realises that it made a strategic error in plastering the cities, towns and villages of Ireland with posters informing single-parent families that every child needs a mother and father.

Her letter expresses concern about the lack of recognition of those single-parent families. However, the 'No' campaign should be careful what it wishes for in this obvious change of tack. Some recognition of unmarried heterosexual couples was proposed via civil partnerships, but this was deemed to be unconstitutional. Any proposal that gives marriage-style benefits to opposite sex couples who have the option of getting married but choose not to is a violation of the State's duty to guard the institution of marriage.

It would be very ironic indeed if the 'No' campaign were now calling for measures that would undermine marriage. Meanwhile, the fact still remains that same gender couples have no access to civil marriage at all.

Aidan O'Sullivan



It's not about equality

This referendum is not about equality. If our legislators were serious about equality when they implemented the Civil Partnership Bill, they should have made sure it was as equal as possible. Of course, it is not equal. For example, single-parent families or even widowed families are not the same and as a result are treated differently in areas of taxation and family support.

To marry has been termed "join as husband and wife" since day dot, since time immemorial, since the very first time formal recognition of this relationship was made. It is perverse for legislators to act like this. This is a quick fix. This is papering over the cracks, lazy and dangerous thinking and possible actions. In ways, it reminds me of the Victorians using tablecloths to cover the legs of tables.

Paul O'Reilly

Beauparc, Navan, Co Meath


Wrong message on cannabis

The news that the Government - through the newly-appointed Minister of State with Responsibility for the Drugs Strategy, Aodhán Ó Ríordáin TD - is examining the possibility of decriminalising cannabis sends a terrible message to young people. For many people who become addicted to harder drugs - such as cocaine, heroin, etc - cannabis was the gateway drug. That the Government, through the minister, have announced that they are even considering decriminalising the substance says to young people, in particular, that cannabis is not a serious drug.

In addition to the tendency of cannabis to be a gateway drug toward even harder substances, study after study has shown the deleterious effect which sustained cannabis consumption can have on the development of the brain during the crucial years of a young person's growth.

The Irish State risks betraying a generation of citizens by effectively telling them that cannabis use is okay.

Even if cannabis is not ultimately decriminalised in this country, the message sent by the possibility of its decriminalisation is hugely regrettable and will not be without consequence.

John B Reid

Knapton Road, Monkstown, Co Dublin

Irish Independent

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