Sunday 18 February 2018

Draw for college places 'unfair to brightest pupils'

Aine Hyland: new proposals
to overhaul points system
Aine Hyland: new proposals to overhaul points system

Breda Heffernan

AN overhaul of the Leaving Certificate points system by introducing a lottery for university places could be a disincentive for the brightest students, the academic proposing the change admitted yesterday.

A university president last night also expressed concern about the proposal and how it would work.

In a report for the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) -- the body that monitors what is taught in schools -- Prof Aine Hyland set out a series of proposals for reform of the points system.

Her most controversial proposal is the introduction of a lottery system where universities set minimum-entry criteria for each course and everyone who meets these requirements is then entered into a lottery for a place.

The idea was considered by the Points Commission in 1999, which Prof Hyland chaired, but was dropped from the group's final report after it failed to win public support.

The fear is that a lottery system means students would have no incentive to work hard as they may not be rewarded with their first-choice college course.

"I think there is a valid concern there but you can use a weighted system -- people with high points have a much higher probability of being selected than those with lower points," she explained.

Prof Hyland said a lottery would ensure a "more equitable system" and reduce pressure on students to perform in the Leaving Cert.

However, it is still only a proposal and could take several years to implement -- and only then it if gets the backing of third-level institutions.

Among her other proposals were:

•Bonus points for maths and English, as students who perform well in these exams are more likely to do well at third-level.

•A reduction in the number of specialised college courses and more generic courses.

•Students intending to study medicine or other professional courses should first complete a foundation course.

Prof Hyland, emeritus professor of education at UCC, was highly critical of the predictability of Leaving Cert exam papers and said this was encouraging rote learning.

Education Minister Ruairi Quinn said any new model would "have to have the same level of trust and transparency that the present system has".

Irish Independent

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