Thursday 14 December 2017

Leaving Cert 2012: Absence of Plath and Heaney on English paper 2 shocks students

Katherine Donnelly

Katherine Donnelly

THE ABSENCE of Sylvia Plath and Seamus Heaney on Leaving Cert English Higher Level paper 2 shocked students today.

Jim Lusby of the Institute of Education described it as a “challenging, but not unfair paper with the exception of the prescribed poetry section”.

He said the Hamlet questions were excellently phrased.

“The expected aspects of the play were examined; character of Hamlet and the theme of corruption. There were no complaints, no shocks,” he said, adding that the range of questions on the Comparative study section of the paper was narrow but manageable.

Mr Lusby described the Unseen Poem as “a poor example of verse”.

“The related questions were standard. A disappointing and uninspiring section,” he said.

On Prescribed Poetry, he said that “the absence of both Plath and Heaney reinforces the message that to assume is folly….”

Nor was he happy with the Philip Larkin question.

“The accusation of cynicism in the quotation offered on the poetry of Larkin betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of his poetry.

“Larkin is not cynical. If the question misunderstands the poetry, how can candidates be expected to reveal an understanding of the poets work.

“The Larkin quotation also referred to ‘moments of sensitivity’. A poem does not consist of moments, a poem is either sensitive or not, in its entirety.

“The unfairness of this question is that it presents candidates with an inaccurate evaluation of a poet’s work.”

He described the question on the poetry of Kinsella as “mediocre”, although “the questions on both Rich and Kavanagh were very good”.

His verdict overall: “We need to think again about how poetry is examined at Leaving Certificate level.”

*Don’t miss tomorrow’s print edition of the Irish Independent for exclusive in-depth analysis of today’s Leaving Cert and Junior Cert papers

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