The day of reckoning has arrived for more than 118,000 Irish pupils who will begin their Junior and Leaving Cert exams today.
For many school children, the next fortnight will be the most stressful of their lives so far but students are being advised to “keep things in perspective”.
Sally Maguire, the president of the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI), told students: “You are sitting exams, and that is all they are; they do not define your value as a person.”
“You will benefit from looking after yourself. Keep a balanced routine over the coming weeks with plenty of study breaks, adequate sleep time, a nutritious diet and some kind of physical activity each day,” Ms Maguire added.
“Today’s exam students have spent the last three to six years engaging in learning, exploring their own interests and talents, and developing their identities as young people and citizens.”
Junior Education Minister Ciaran Cannon (inset above) voiced his concern over the current mode of examination.
“We need to remove the shackles of rote learning and regurgitation, which is what we have presently,” he said.
He also told Newstalk radio that Leaving Cert students should have the option of doing their exams on computer rather than being forced to do a handwriting marathon.
“The main aim is to use technology in a very innovative way to foster children’s creative skill. We are trying to engage with kids in an environment they feel utterly comfortable in,” he said.
Meanwhile, concerned parents of ill children have hit out at the lack of provisions available for students who have fallen sick.
Speaking to Joe Duffy yesterday, Niamh Bradley described how her son contracted chickenpox last Saturday saying she didn’t know if he’d be well enough to start exams today.
As it stands, if a child is unable sit their exams through illness they would have to repeat the year.
“The school has been fantastic as there are three students with chickenpox and they have been seated in a separate exam hall to prevent the contagion,” Ms Bradley said, adding: “At the moment my son is not even eating let alone fit to sit a three-hour-20-minute English exam”.
She echoed calls made by a previous caller for sick students to be able to resit tests during the summer.