Saturday 20 January 2018

Leaving Cert students avoid 'hard' questions

Students sitting the Leaving Certificate
Students sitting the Leaving Certificate "honours" economics exam are able to avoid answering more challenging questions because of the way the paper is structured.
Katherine Donnelly

Katherine Donnelly

Students sitting the Leaving Certificate "honours" economics exam are able to avoid answering more challenging questions because of the way the paper is structured.

It means that students do not have to cover the entire curriculum in order to complete the paper.

Candidates generally tend to focus on questions where they have been able to prepare answers in advance, according to a new review.

Students show a distinct preference for questions about micro-economics, such as household budgets, rather than macroeconomics, which deals with broader issues, like inflation and growth.

The concerns are raised in a discussion paper about the economics syllabus, which has been the subject of some criticism by leading economists.

The current syllabus has been in use since 1969 and, apart from a few minor revisions, it hasn't changed in 46 years.

The National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) has started preparations for a new one.

Currently, 75pc (300) of the marks are awarded for Section B of the exam paper, where candidates are required to attempt any four of eight questions, each worth 75 marks.

According to the NCCA, micro-economic questions are most popular among higher level candidates and "the reasons for the unpopularity of macro-economics are not clear.

The paper speculates that perhaps students don't like the topic, consider the questions more difficult, or not as predictable as others.

It states that because the Section B questions are equally assigned to micro-and macro-economic content, "this has resulted in many students being about to avoid areas of the curriculum which they consider more challenging".

The NCCA refers to reports by the Chief State Examiner in 2009 and 2013 raising concerns about rote learning in the subject and suggesting that exam preparation and predictability are factors in students choosing micro-economic questions.

It notes that to "perform well in the macro-economic questions at higher level, candidates need a good knowledge of contemporary economic issues in the Irish economy and an ability to apply the relevant economic theories to particular issues."

Irish Independent

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