Monday 18 November 2019

Leaving Cert subject reforms redundant after funding delay

Updates drafted in 2005 are sent back to drawing board

Katherine Donnelly

REFORMS to a range of Leaving Certificate subjects are being sent back to the drawing board before even reaching the classroom.

Essential changes to what students are taught in economics and art are considered out of date, having been gathering dust since 2005.

The new syllabuses have languished at the bottom of Department of Education's priority list -- and now they are becoming redundant.

Government education advisers want to recall them and start all over again.

The National Council for Curriculum and Assessment decided at a recent meeting to ask the department to send them back.

A new economics syllabus was up to date when it was written in 2005, representing the first change in teaching that subject since the 1970s.

There was excitement in 2005 that the economics students of the future would engage in real-life application of learning, through completion of a case study.

But the death of the Celtic Tiger and a new global economic landscape has changed everything.

Concepts such as burning the bondholders, a NAMA haircut and bank stress tests were not even in our vocabulary in 2005.

The first change to Leaving Cert art in 30 years was also being welcomed in 2005.

It was designed to broaden out traditional teaching of the subject to introduce digital media -- but technology has moved on since then.

The new syllabuses were never rolled out to schools because, even at the height of the economic boom, the department said the money wasn't there.

Other new or reformed Leaving Cert subjects prepared in recent years also suffered a similar fate.

Architectural technology and engineering technology are 21st Century versions of construction studies and engineering, but they haven't yet been introduced to schools.

Lack of funding is also hampering plans to continue promoting mental and emotional health among students beyond the Junior Cert years, and taking social, personal and health education into senior cycle.

In the current economic circumstances, there is even less money and the new and revised subjects remain at the bottom of the department's priority pile.

When Education Minister Ruairi Quinn took over, he was told that changes such as these would have to wait.


Immediate areas of national priority in the curriculum include literacy and numeracy.

Also high on the list is Irish, including the focus on a more communicative approach through awarding extra marks for the oral exam.

The new Project Maths and Junior Cert reforms are also considered important, while changes to Leaving Cert science subjects are another priority.

But the money is not there for the reforms mooted in 2005.

The 2005 art syllabus would cost €7m in equipment and €1.4m for teaching training.

The new technology subjects would involve €1.7m for training and €4.5m for equipment.

The 2005 economics syllabus would not require any equipment, but the training cost is put at €300,000.

Curricular reform actually features in the National Development Plan, but there are no additional funds earmarked explicitly for the necessary equipment and resources.

Irish Independent

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