Wednesday 13 December 2017

Continuous assessment on cards for Junior Certs

Fergus Black

Sweeping new reforms to introduce continuous assessment for half the work done by Junior Cert students are under consideration.

The plans, which Education Minister Ruairi Quinn yesterday said could be phased in over the next five to 10 years, would replace the system of assessing students exclusively in exams.

But teacher unions greeted the comments with caution.

A new report on reform of the Junior Certificate and the junior cycle -- the third attempt to revamp the curriculum in the past 20 years -- is due to be finalised in September.

Already an eight-subject cap has been introduced for Junior Cert students from next year in a bid to stamp out the practice of learning off by heart.

But if the reforms currently being developed by the National Council for Curriculum are accepted, some 50pc of the end-of-cycle marks awarded to a Junior Cert student would be based on continuous assessment of their portfolios -- rather than being solely based on exam results, the minister said.

With many students already filing their work electronically, modern technology could also be used to develop models that would end the difficulties associated with teachers assessing their own pupils.

"Because this work can be filed electronically it can probably be assessed remotely which takes away one of the concerns people have that teachers would be assessing their own students' work and could come under some social pressure, particularly in some smaller towns," Mr Quinn said.

The Association of Secondary Teachers, Ireland, said it supported a broad range of assessment techniques for the Junior Cert, but warned that students should not be assessed by their own teachers for state exams -- which could lead to difficulties in continuous assessment.

The Teachers' Union of Ireland also warned against a "quick solution" to the Junior Cert and said it had major concerns about the use of continuous assessment of students.

These included the potential for plagiarism, the possible difficulties in authenticating students' work and an excessive workload for teachers.

Meanwhile, a new report, published after consultation with young people, shows students want the junior cycle cut from three to two years with the extra year added to the senior cycle.

They would also prefer that only three subjects -- English, maths and social, personal and health education -- be compulsory in the junior cycle.

The survey of a group of 12- to 18-year-olds from Comhairle na nOg, the countrywide forum of youth councils, also found that young people considered the Junior Cert exam to be a negative form of assessment that was essentially just a "memory test".

Irish Independent

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