Monday 19 March 2018

Hard to make the 'A' grade in Art

Katherine Donnelly

Katherine Donnelly

Art is the toughest test for Leaving Certificate candidates, when it comes to scoring points for college entry.

Of more than 40 subjects, it ranks lowest in the number of A grades handed out to higher level students.

It puts students with a bent for art at a disadvantage compared to those whose strength is in the sciences, making it more difficult for them to achieve CAO points.

The finger of blame has been pointed at an out-of-date syllabus -- while plans for a more modern approach to teaching and learning the subject is gathering dust in the Department of Education and Skills.

According to a breakdown of 2010 results, it was up to three times harder to get an A in Art Higher Level, than in many other subjects.

This year, only 5.8pc of Art Higher Level candidates achieved an A, compared with 17.4pc in Biology.

Far from being a minority interest, Art is the ninth most popular subject taken at higher level.

But the outcome for candidates is a far cry from that enjoyed by students taking other subjects.

English is the most popular subject of all and of the 33,007 taking it at higher level; 10.3pc scored an A this year.

For most subjects taken at higher level, A grades are in double-digits, rising, in some cases to over 20pc.

Across the board of science subjects, it is relatively easy to clock up an A, when compared with Art.

Biology is the second most popular subject at higher level, attracting almost 21,000 candidates, which makes the achievement of an A grade by 17.4pc of such a big pool all the more remarkable.

While both Physics and Chemistry are taken by smaller numbers of students at higher level, 4,877 and 6,298 respectively, the proportion scoring A's was an impressive 20.8pc in both cases.

Art also falls well below subjects such as Business and Home Economics, the sixth and seventh most popular subjects at higher level, sometimes regarded by students as "easy" options.

There is anecdotal evidence of 6th year students dropping down from Maths Higher level to ordinary level, to take one of those subjects in the expectation that they are improving their chances of getting higher points.

Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland's (ASTI) Art spokesperson Jane Campbell said the problem with Art in the Leaving Cert had to do with the nature of the exam.

She said there is a lack of follow-on from Junior Certificate, where the students work was project based, plans to continue that into Leaving Certificate have not been implemented.

She said there is a huge fall off in students taking Art between Junior and Leaving Cert levels, because of the outdated syllabus. "I have students getting A's in the Junior Cert, who drop to C's in the Leaving Cert," she said.

The existing syllabus has a strong emphasis on art history and is very wide-ranging, stretching from pre-historic times to present day, making it difficult to prepare for the exam.

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