Friday 23 August 2019

'Reform Leaving Cert to bring it into 21st century' - Ibec says radical overhaul of senior cycle needed to prepare students better for future world of work

(stock photo)
(stock photo)

Katherine Donnelly and Evie Kearney

The Leaving Cert must be made more relevant for the 21st century, according to employers.

As up to 59,000 students from the class of 2019 received their results, the employers' group Ibec said reform of senior cycle and careers guidance was necessary to better prepare students for the future world of work.

Ibec particularly welcomed the increased uptake in higher level maths, which reached a record 33pc of candidates this year, double what it was in 2011.

Claire McGee, who is head of education and innovation policy with the organisation, said it was also encouraging to see a rise in the number of students taking science subjects.

"This will help students who wish to pursue science and technology courses at third-level, leading to interesting and successful careers across a broad range of industry sectors," she said.

But she said there remained some concern about the results in ordinary level maths, where 10.9pc of candidates failed to achieve a mark of 40pc.

Concerns: Claire McGee of Ibec was worried about results in maths
Concerns: Claire McGee of Ibec was worried about results in maths

"Maths skills are necessary for all citizens to participate fully in life, in further study and in work.

"The quality and approach of teaching may need to be reviewed to support such students."

Ibec's concerns were shared by Fianna Fáil education spokesperson Thomas Byrne, who said for the 3,700 students overall 'failing' maths, there were ramifications for access to third-level.

However, Mr Byrne welcomed the increasing uptake of subjects at higher level, in particular English, Irish and maths.

The growing popularity of higher level has been driven, in part, by changes in 2017 which allow candidates to gain CAO points for a mark between 30-39pc on an "honours" paper.

Education Minister Joe McHugh yesterday denied that the change had undermined the system, but instead sought to move away from the concept of failure in the Leaving Certificate.

"There was a very rigid and harsh treatment of the failure rate in times gone by where if you got 40 you passed, if you got 39 you were deemed a failure, so we're moving away from that concept of failure to try to encourage, to try to incentivise," he told RTÉ's 'Morning Ireland'.

Pressing the case for reform of the Leaving Cert, Ms McGee said the workplace of the future would be very different from that of today, as many of the jobs and skills required had not yet been imagined.

She said Irish businesses valued people who could demonstrate creativity, resilience and an aptitude for learning and it was that the education system equipped young people with the skills and knowledge they needed to reach their full potential.

The National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) is currently engaged in a major review of senior cycle and has opened up its work to date for public consultation.

She said it was critical that all stakeholders - students, parents, educators and business - engaged "in this important process".

The Education Minister also spoke yesterday about his announcement earlier this week about an overhaul in the regime for granting exemptions from the study of Irish in schools, which will have an affect most on pupils with learning difficulties.

The Irish language organisation Conradh na Gaeilge has expressed concern about the relaxation of certain rules, but Mr McHugh said it was "not a free for all".

Irish Independent

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