Tuesday 25 June 2019

Going to College: Big demand for Leaving Cert reform from pupils

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Katherine Donnelly

Katherine Donnelly

Huge demand for reform of the Leaving Cert has emerged in new research commissioned by the organisation representing principals in post-primary schools.

Students and parents are to the fore in seeking radical changes, with three in four recent school-leavers backing a system of continuous assessment rather than reliance on a final exam and the pressure that involves.

Principals and teachers also display considerable dissatisfaction with the Leaving Cert, although they are more divided about possible change, particularly any involving teachers grading their own students.

The research, carried out for the National Association of Principals and Deputy Principals (NAPD), surveyed recent school-leavers, parents, principals, deputy principals and teachers.

Key findings include:

:: Only 4pc of students, 15pc of parents and 28pc of principals/teachers feel the Leaving Cert is fair and accurately assesses students;

:: 97pc of parents, 81pc of students and 65pc of principals and teachers want reform;

:: 76pc of students want continuous assessment;

:: 51pc of students, 30pc of parents and 22pc of principals/teachers would support teachers correcting their own students' exams.

When principals/teachers were asked what one thing they would change about the Leaving Cert, 23pc supported continuous assessment, 38pc said they would like other factors introduced such as interviews, 18pc favoured reducing the number of subjects taken, and 10pc backed credits for extra-curricular activities.

Among students, 51pc found the Leaving Cert difficult, particularly the pressure and stress resulting from the realisation that everything rested on one final exam, 79pc did not feel the current system encouraged active learning methodologies, 67pc felt the points they achieved were not an accurate reflection of their abilities, and 25pc would have relished practical assessments.

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The Government curriculum advisory body, the NCCA, is already engaged in a review of senior cycle, and these findings, from the market research company Amárach, will fuel the debate.

NAPD director Clive Byrne said the 'Senior Cycle Reform, What do you want?' report pointed to "a huge appetite for change" and said reform of a system largely unchanged since the 1960s must be a priority.

He referred to the changes at junior cycle, but said the "greater prize in ensuring a modern, fit-for-purpose education system lies in reform of our senior cycle".

In response to the research, the NAPD made three key recommendations, including the establishment of a Citizens' Assembly Education Forum to complement the work being done by the NCCA, with a view to fast-tracking reform.

The NAPD is also seeking the inclusion of an additional practical component as part of the Leaving Cert assessment process and more funding to encourage apprenticeships.

In a contribution to the report, Professor Philip Nolan, president of Maynooth University, said while the Leaving Cert could "be a really important and useful stepping stone, it doesn't assess everything".

Irish Independent

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