Sunday 16 June 2019

'Not enough teachers or money' to roll out key exam reforms - new report

(Stock picture)
(Stock picture)
Katherine Donnelly

Katherine Donnelly

Schools cannot cope with the introduction of long-awaited Leaving Cert science practicals without massive investment and a shake-up of the entire exam process, according to a new report.

The unpublished State Examinations Commission (SEC) report blows out of the water any hopes of a national roll-out of practicals in biology, chemistry and physics in the short term. It says we do not have enough teachers or money to make this a reality.

The SEC found that bringing all school laboratories up to standard would cost hundreds of millions of euro.

It also highlights a critical shortage of science teachers, making it difficult for schools to release staff to act as external examiners.

Another challenge is finding space for science practicals in the packed sixth-year timetable, on top of the Leaving Cert 'mocks' and existing orals and practicals in other subjects.

Practicals were first proposed as far back as 1982, and trials were carried out in 30 schools over the past year.

While these trials were deemed a success, the SEC's Report on Trialling of the Assessment of Practical Work means there is little hope of them being extended to all schools any time soon.

At the very least, the report calls for a "major review" of the organisation of all orals and practicals for the State exams before anything else is imposed on an "already over-burdened system".

It was hoped practicals would be a feature of assessments for fifth years starting next September.

But the report points to the logistical and financial challenges involved in delivering this to more than 700 schools and bluntly states "it could not be recommended" at this time.

Ireland's reliance on written exams to test understanding of scientific concepts is out of step with best practice.

Irish Independent

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