Tuesday 16 July 2019

Leaving Certificate Politics and Society: Ordinary level paper may have been difficult for students

School stock picture
School stock picture
Katherine Donnelly

Katherine Donnelly

Climate action and gender were one of the topical issues on the Leaving Cert higher level Politics and Society paper, an exam that went down well with teachers. However, not everyone agreed about the ordinary level paper.

Politics and Society was one of three subjects to be examined on the final day of the 2019 Leaving Cert, with a small number of students taking Japanese and Arabic.

Michael Doran of Dublin’s Institute of Education described the higher level Politics and Society exam as a "vibrant paper that caught the issues of our day and the mood our time".

He said it reflected many topical issues that students would feel strongly about, while noting that "textbooks will date very quickly as there were a lot of references on the paper to things that have happened in the past year".

He described Section A, the short question, has having an "excellent range" from populism in the EU, to human rights, gender quotas and the issue of school uniforms.

Mr Doran said the Section B, data-based questions, didn’t shy away from controversial issues, such as violence against woman.

And he also complimented the "good choice" of discursive essays in Section C with topics such as direct provision and immigration, national identity and the Irish political system.

Association of Secondary Teachers’ Ireland (ASTI) subject representative, Pa O’Driscoll, Colaiste Dun Iascaigh, Cahir, Co. Tipperary said most students would be happy with the paper.

However he said while the "topics were there, questions weren’t straightforward and were asked in a way that forced students to think, and would test them."

Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI) subject representative Brendan Greene, of St Claire’s Comprehensive School Manorhamilton, Co Leitrim, described it as a fair and imaginative paper: "As I teacher I would be very happy."

However, while Mr O’Driscoll thought the ordinary level paper was accessible, Mr Greene felt it was quite difficult, with some aspects of it that would definitely challenge even higher level students.

One question with which Mr Greene raised an issue referred to "imagined communities", which he felt was a difficult concept for these candidates. 

In another, students  were asked to discuss the model of education the new Sudbury School in Sligo which is run as a democracy with all students and staff treated as equal and all have a role in decision‐making, and where students can learn at their own pace.

"This is a pretty revolutionary idea and for people subjected to the very controlled Irish education system, this was really extending the imagination of ordinary level candidates."

Mr Green also thought there was "something a bit mad" in Q3, which asked about the selection of the Northern Ireland executive, "given fact that this has been in abeyance for all of the duration these people would have studied Politics and Society."

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