Thursday 22 March 2018

Overhaul of Junior Cert set to spark row with teachers

Fergus Black

RADICAL changes to the way second-level students are taught and tested will be unveiled today when Education Minister Ruairi Quinn announces an overhaul of the Junior Cert.

But the minister will face a tough battle with teacher unions when he announces that there will be greater emphasis on teachers assessing their students' work.

The sweeping changes have been on the cards for years and follow an intensive period of consultation by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment.

Under the measures, there will also be a cap on the number of subjects students can take in their final Junior Cert exam.

Political sources last night said the changes would come into operation for students starting their three-year second-level cycle in 2014.

Under the new arrangements, students would carry more responsibility for their learning through building portfolios of work and presenting them for assessment.

Other proposals are expected to include the introduction of standardised tests in English, Irish and maths for students in second year

When he announced proposals to cap the number of subjects students could take in their Junior Cert, Mr Quinn said the limit was proposed for good reasons. It would, he said, allow more time for literacy and numeracy and would deal with the problem of "curriculum overload".

However, an ASTI spokesperson said that while reforms to the Junior Cycle were necessary, any changes must be transparent, objective and fair and must not create social inequality in the school system.

While teachers did not oppose continuous assessment, ASTI policy would continue to be that teachers did not award marks to their own pupils, she said. It is expected that a massive and costly teacher-training programme will be needed to pave the way for the reforms.

Mr Quinn faces a number of challenges, including resistance by teachers to assessing their own pupils, a crunch issue that was reiterated last night by the secondary teachers' union ASTI.

Irish Independent

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