Monday 21 January 2019

Hurling bitter words Trump's way released pent-up tension

Exam Diary

Eboni Burke
Eboni Burke

Eboni Burke

A crisp, pink sheet of paper was laid out on the table in front of me and I knew that the hearts of every sixth year student across Ireland collectively dropped to their stomachs; English paper one.

You could cut the tension in the room with a knife and nervous eyes wandered to their peers before opening the paper to their first exam.

This caffeine-fuelled student could barely grip her pen without shaking - it was fear of the unknown that did me in. However, all things considered, the paper was, dare I say, decent.

Although it is the second part of the paper, I began with the composition section, mainly because I'm a rebel without a cause. I stared at the paper for what felt like 10 minutes, mulling over what essay to write, biting my nails further down to the nub. Composition is worth 100 marks, so no pressure, as you can imagine.

One prompt even encouraged students to "reflect on what [we] perceive to be the pleasures particular to youth", a mean feat when we're sitting a Leaving Cert paper. In the end, I opted for the speech "Language is a great weapon", hurling bitter words Donald Trump's way. That certainly released some pent-up frustration and made a harrowing task bearable.

Next was comprehension. The theme, 'young writers', an eager encouragement for literary enthusiasts like myself. I felt considerably surprised that question A (ii) in each text asked students to make reference to our studied texts from the Leaving Cert course (poetry, comparative texts, 'King Lear' etc).Surely that is what paper 2 is for? This caught many students completely off guard, some even taking to Twitter to express their outrage.

Nevertheless, we persisted.

In question B, I was fortunate enough to have been asked the perfect question: "Based on your experience of second-level education, write an opinion piece in which you acknowledge what you see as the strengths of the education you have received, criticise what you see as its weaknesses and make suggestions for its improvement".

To give you a bit of personal background, I'm the current welfare and equality officer for the Irish Second-Level Students' Union (ISSU).

To critique the education system and demand reform is necessary to my role - in fact I was fortunate enough to have been asked to speak at an Oireachtas committee recently regarding the review of sex education, so this question hit home.

I would also like to take the time to address every English teacher marking this question, and ask that you take these answers to heart. I can assure you these responses are raw, unfiltered and, obviously, based on of five-six years' experience, so do pay heed.

Eboni Burke is a student at Beaufort College, Navan, Co Meath

Irish Independent

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