Friday 23 August 2019

Exams 2019: Students urge exam reform as 'wellbeing deteriorating'

Leaving Cert student Kai Monahan. Picture: Frank McGrath
Leaving Cert student Kai Monahan. Picture: Frank McGrath
Laura Lynott

Laura Lynott

Coming out of their first exam, Leaving Cert students Kai Monahan and Beth Earle said the system should be overhauled.

It wasn't that English Paper One presented any particular difficulties for the two pupils of Mount Temple Comprehensive School, Clontarf, Dublin.

Kai (18), from Balgriffin, said that there was a lot of creative writing involved "and I did enjoy that part of the paper".

Beth (18), from Dunboyne, Co Meath, whose favourite subject is music, said she found the first exam "OK", however she also admitted she wasn't "thrilled about it".

Both students said the paper had offered a welcome opportunity to write a journal entry describing leaving Earth. They felt this was relevant to the climate change issue facing the planet. But they expressed concerns about the psychological impact the Leaving Cert is having on their generation.

Kai said the Leaving Cert had caused "too much stress and anxiety in the student population".

"I know friends have been talking at night and crying, they've been under too much pressure and they don't know what to do."

Beth said: "The Leaving Cert doesn't suit every student - it's very specific students that do well. I definitely think there is too much pressure on students. There are other options which are becoming more popular but it's still such a massive thing for people.

"People's mental health has been deteriorating, especially in my year. I've noticed it in my friends. It's just too much."

Principal Liam Wegimont said staff at the school did their best to "try to prepare students" for the Leaving Cert and he believed "students are quietly confident" after the first paper.

But this didn't take away from the fact that he feels the exam needs to be "abolished" for future students.

"The system is not fit for purpose. The Leaving Cert should be abolished, it should have been a long time ago - it needs to be reformed at the least. It doesn't work for students, for teachers, and there are questions if it works for universities."

Mount Temple is one of 41 schools, and other education interests, that are working with the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment on a review of senior cycle.

He referred to a recent report on the findings from a consultation process, saying "their findings were clear. It needs to change, it's not working".

"There will be resistance from a variety of sources, mostly from vested interests," he added.

"There's a national hype round the Leaving Cert. But we're focusing more on wellbeing - it's a focus in primary school and junior cycle but what happens when students reach fifth year, unfortunately the unnecessary pressure of high stakes exams diminishes wellbeing and adds to anxiety.

"Look at the statistics, the number of special centres regarding anxiety and mental health; it's clear things need to change."

If you've been affected negatively by exam stress contact the Samaritans, freephone day or night on 116 123.

Irish Independent

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