Katherine Donnelly: Helping our college hopefuls to aim higher
Encouraging Leaving Certificate students to aim high can often be a challenge. Some will avoid what are deemed to be “challenging” subjects for fear of not achieving the points they are chasing for college entry.
Borderline students will often take the ordinary level option rather than running the risk of “failing” the “honours” paper. A mark of 40pc at higher level earns a candidate 45 points, but 39pc translates to zero points. The same student would be guaranteed 45 points for a B1 at ordinary level, with 50 for an A2 and 60 for an A1.
The maths are very simple for a school-leaver running the “points race” and trying to stay ahead of the competition for that college place.
While points are the currency for college entry, and the system is lauded for its transparency, it has encouraged unwelcome practices among students of selecting subjects and levels to maximise their tally.
There are many examples of students choosing a subject purely because it was deemed to be one in which it is easier to pick up an A or a B, even though it might be of no particular relevance to their future plans.
In doing so, they may be denying a college place on a particular course to other students, who have more of an aptitude for, and interest in that area of study.
The way points are awarded has allowed those who are risk averse to take the softer option, rather than challenging themelves and acquiring the thinking skills and knowledge that both they, society and the economy needs.
Tweaking the system to Incentivise students to do the “honours” course and to take appropriate and “tough” subjects represents sensible reform.