The new-style Junior Cycle history paper has sparked outrage because students sitting the exams had no idea what marks were being allocated for each question.
“It is very unfair to students, and students and teachers are unhappy about it,” said Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI) subject representative Niall Westman.
Like all Junior Cycle subjects, both the history syllabus and exam have undergone an overhaul, and this is the first year of the new paper.
Gerard Hanlon, an Association of Secondary Teachers’ Ireland (ASTI) subject representative agreed that the absence of marks for individual question was unfair. He said it left students with no way of knowing whether it was worthwhile spending more time on a particular question because it was worth more marks.
Mr Hanlon, of Newtown School, Waterford city, said while there was no allocation of marks outlined in the sample paper received by schools, “I thought there would be marks on this”.
Mr Westman, a teacher at Mountmellick Community School, Co Laois, had other criticisms of the paper.
Students had no options and had to answer all eight questions. “This is problematic, given that students were absent quite a bit for the last two years. If a student missed the holocaust in class then they couldn’t answer question seven,” he said.
Mr Westman said the exam, which like most Junior Cycle papers, is common level from this year, was more suited to the better students.
“It is fine and fair on students with good literacy skills, but weaker students will have had difficulty answering a lot of the questions. This is very unfair and a major flaw with the concept of common level.”
He also criticised the lack of questions on Irish or European history post 1900. Just a very short section on the civil war and one section on the holocaust,” he said
Mr Westman also commented on the absence of questions on the Cold War question, America and the European Union.
“Teachers will feel they have spent quite a bit of time on areas that never came up,” he said.
He added: “Does this new junior cycle history help students going forward to Leaving Cert history. I would have to say absolutely not. “
In reply to a query, a State Examinations Commission (SEC) spokesperson said as had long been the case at Junior Cycle, “the level of detail on examination papers in relation to mark allocations may vary from subject to subject.”
The spokesperson said that, in some cases, mark allocations were shown for questions, sections, or the entire paper, and some papers provided guidance as to the length of time to be spent on particular questions.
“It is important to note that these are ‘no choice’ examination papers and candidates are required to answer all of the questions on the examination paper. In addition, the examination papers are in a ‘completion booklet’ format, and the space provided for the candidate responses provides an indication to candidates of the length of the response required.
“The 2022 Junior Cycle History examination reflects the structure and format of the sample paper that issued in Autumn 2020. Likewise, for all other subjects, the first examination will broadly reflect the format and structure of the sample paper,” the spokesperson added.