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Junior Cert Geography: Unfair that no marks allocated to questions, say teachers

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The absence of indicated marks awarded for individual questions on the new-style Junior Cycle Geography paper caused annoyance, as it did with yesterday’s history exam.

It was very unfair. It says on the paper that it is worth 360 marks, but students have no way of knowing how many are being allocated to each question,” said Association of Secondary Teachers’ Ireland (ASTI) subject representative, Edmund Hussey.

Mr Hussey, of Christian Brothers College (CBC), Sidney Place, Cork, said the students involved were “very young to have the adaptability and flexibility on the spot” to work out how to allocate their time.

Marks for individual questions were not outlined in the sample paper issued last autumn and a State Examinations Commission (SEC) spokesperson said the level of detail on papers in relation to mark allocations may vary from subject to subject. The first exam will broadly reflect the format and structure of the sample paper. the spokesperson said.

Higher and ordinary level are gone and all students take the same common level exam as part of the Junior Cycle reforms that are being rolled out fully in this year’s exams.

However Mr Hussey welcomed one change from the sample paper, the reduction from 10 long questions to nine.

But still, he said, students faced a “very daunting” 25 pages of questions and were “writing to the end”.

He added: “There is a lot of reading in 25 pages of text and I would say there is a need to review the amount of reading that has to be done on this paper.”

Mr Hussey was disappointed that with the big interest among teenagers in climate action, only one question asked about renewable energy and windfarms. 

“There was very little on climate; I would have expected a lot more on global warming. It was a disappointment in terms of what we are doing as teachers”.

He also criticised Q2 on factory inputs, outputs and processes, language which, he said, harked back to the old syllabus.

Mr Hussey also commented on “unclear vertical photographs” in Q3 and Q5,

Geography teacher, Luke Saunders of the Studyclix exams website, noted that students had to answer all nine questions and queried why there were no adjustments to the paper as is happening across the Leaving Cert, to compensate for the disruption to education caused by Covid.

"Students had no choice whatsoever. I think it would have been a fairer approach to offer at least some choice to junior students also as I am sure there are students out there who through Covid-enforced disruptions may not have finished some parts of the course.

"Despite the lack of choice, he thought the paper was “fairly standard and covered a wide range of topics on the course”.

He said he liked that the paper drew on student’s ability to make a reasoned argument such as in the question where they had to give an argument for and against the development of a wind farm.


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