Tuesday 20 March 2018

Junior Cert students will only be allowed sit nine exams

Overhaul of system to lift burden on teenagers

Picture posed, Thinkstock
Picture posed, Thinkstock

Katherine Donnelly

A REVAMPED Junior Cert will put a cap on the number of subjects students can sit.

The days of 15-year-olds preparing for exams in up to 14 subjects will end, and there will be a new limit of nine.

In another radical move, students could be offered the choice of two separate qualifications at this stage in their education.

The proposed changes by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) will address 'curriculum overload' and the burden it imposes on young teenagers.

In its present form, the Junior Certificate has contributed to a culture of learning "off by heart" and of lack of real engagement by the 55,000 students who sit the exam every year.

The number of subjects taken by the average student has gradually increased over the years without any real purpose.

There is no real incentive for taking so many subjects, and there is a growing belief that the trend is counterproductive, as students are suffering subject overload.

A major overhaul of the early years in second-level education has been signalled for some time, and Government advisers are now working on the final proposals.

Schools would still offer the same range of subjects but, under the new proposals, students would be limited to nine.

It is hoped that this would allow them to develop a better understanding of their chosen subjects.

The NCCA will present its recommendations to Education Minister Ruairi Quinn within months.

The council will also propose a separate qualification for pupils at this stage, one being the traditional Junior Cert, which is rated at level three in the National Qualifications Framework.

The NCCA is also suggesting a level-two qualification to cater for students with special educational needs.


Other changes mooted include giving schools greater flexibility to develop their own courses and greater integration between subjects.

The need for change in how the education system treats pupils in the early years of second level has been well aired and the dominance of the Junior Cert exam itself is regarded as a major obstacle.

A confidential NCCA document, seen by the Irish Independent, refers to the "groundhog factor" that followed previous efforts to reform the exam.

"We have moved beyond anecdote and comment to robust evidence that continuing the status quo will not leave things as they are; it will make things worse," the document warns.

Irish Independent

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