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Leaving Cert History not the usual ‘race against the clock’– and ‘that should be the future’

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The ‘race against the clock’ associated with sitting the Leaving Cert History Higher Level paper  was removed this year, and lessons should be learned from that, according to one teacher.

Susan Cashell , a teacher at The Institute of Education , Dublin, said was the first time students will have gone into the history exam where time will not have been a major issue.

She said it would make students’ study of history and their exam experience less fraught if the choice/time allocation experienced this year became the norm.

Normally, students have to answer a Documents Based Question (DBQ) and write three essays, but this year it was a DBQ and two essays.

Philip Irwin, an Association of Secondary Teachers’ Ireland (ASTI) subject representative agreed that the extra time students had for each question provided an opportunity to write more considered responses.

Mr Irwin, of The High School Rathgar, Dublin said overall it was a “fair paper with good choice and good mainstream questions that students could get their teeth into.”

He said candidates would have welcomed the DBQ topic of the Montgomery bus boycott 1956. Both Mr Irwin and Ms Cashell liked the wording of the contextualisation question here, where students were asked to about “to what extent” the boycott had brought about change. Ms Cashell said it allowed students flexibility.” Mr Irwin said it provided an opportunity to write about the civil rights movement

In the Irish History section, Mr Irwin said that while the option on treaty negotiations was a long question, it was “a good one”.

He commented on the “broad” nature of a number of questions on the paper, including one on the impact of World War II in Ireland, North and South, and another life on the Home Front in World War II, which “students had time to answer”.

Ms Cashell noted that in the Europe and the Wider World section, the dictatorship option had a specific question on the characteristics of fascism under Mussolini.

“Students would have had to consider the characteristics and apply them specifically to Mussolini rather than in general. If they felt that was too challenging there were two excellent questions to choose from on Hitler’s foreign policy up to 1939 and Stalin’s transformation of the Soviet Union, she said.


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