Sunday 25 August 2019

Leaving Cert 2019: Favourable reaction to English Paper One

The Leaving Cert got off to a good start for candidates with English Paper 1 going down well with both teachers and students. (Stock image)
The Leaving Cert got off to a good start for candidates with English Paper 1 going down well with both teachers and students. (Stock image)
Katherine Donnelly

Katherine Donnelly

The Leaving Cert got off to a good start for candidates with English Paper 1 going down well with both teachers and students.

Jim Lusby of the Institute of Education, Dublin went so far as to say that  higher level paper was  one that would “energise students at the start of the exams”.

He said it was both ‘stimulating and exciting” and one that “challenged young people to think critically, creatively and carefully".

“At a time when our responses to life are threatened with being narrowed to a cramped range from outrage to likes, it is a vital statement of the importance of intellectual and imaginative enquiry and curiosity”, he said.

Read more here: Leaving Cert Diary: 'Sure look, all you can do is your best' - as all the Irish mammies would say

Kate Barry of the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland  (ASTI) said her higher level students came out of the exam with smiling faces and were “very happy”.

Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI) subject representative Liz Farrell described the paper as “very much to plan and nice one to settle them in". Students were very happy, she said.

The general theme was Feeding Our Imaginations, which Mr Lusby described as “interesting  and relevant” but it was “the paper’s approach to this topic that is as stimulating as the content itself”.

He said that each of the three texts; What Is Art For?,  A Photographers Perspective, and Libraries- Cathedrals Of Our Souls, required a sustained focus on the experiences that stimulate the imagination, “a focus that will be alien to any student whose attention span is usually limited to scrolling the ever-changing banalities on screens. “

The questions set on each text, were subtle and precise and demanded an understanding of how words shift their meanings with changing contexts, he said

“These questions were a perfect warm-up for the subsequent tests in comprehension, analysis and evaluation required for the remainder of Paper 1 and for tomorrow’s Paper 2”, he said

He noted that similar to last year, material from the prescribed literature on the course appeared again on Paper 1.

Read more here: 'Do not probe': Guidance counsellor's tips on how to help anxious students at exam time

In the composing section, Mr Lusby said the various writing exercises were “carefully phrased, encouraging candidates to reflect on the subtleties of language and the colour of the human imagination.”

He described the suggested differences, for instance, between ‘dawn’ and ‘dusk’, ‘values’ and ‘significance’, as “typical examples of the paper’s imaginative approach to the excitement of language.”

“On the basis of Paper 1, the well-prepared, well-read and independently minded student will look forward eagerly to the challenges of Paper 2”, he said.

Ms Barry, who teaches in Loreto Secondary School, Fermoy, Co Cork  said the paper was  well balanced with a nice selection of questions  and comprehension texts that were “appropriately challenging”.

Ms Farrell also noted the  reference in the comprehension section  to texts students had studied for Paper 2, but, where ”last year, they we would have been shocked, this year  they were expecting it.”

She described the selection of essays, which included the option of writing a speech, to be broadcast online. On the “We are a self-obsessed generation”, as very nice

There was also general agreement that  the ordinary level paper, on the theme of social media,  was well balanced. The set texts included a YouTuber’s description of social media experience, reflections on the selfie, and blog posts from The Friends of the Earth website.

Mr Lusby said the composition tasks maintained the interesting balance of the entire paper, often starting with a familiar idea, but then inviting candidates to approach it from a somewhat different angle, such as imagining a year without the use of any form of social media.

Overall, it was a paper “that managed to be accessible and comfortable on the one hand, but also stimulating and thought-provoking”.

Ms Barry  said the essays at ordinary level were “a bit more specific” than at higher level, but maybe that is good because it gives more guidance.”

She noted the question on the value of volunteering, which, he said offered good scope.

“There is a very broad range of candidate taking ordinary level and it is good to have a wide variety of questions for better able ones to have something to get working on, something thought- provoking.

Ms Farrell of Coláiste Eoin, Hacketstown, Co Carlow, said the ordinary level paper “couldn’t have been nicer” for candidates.

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