Sunday 18 March 2018

Not the right time for change to Junior Cert, teachers insist

Fergus Black and Breda Heffernan

NOW is not the time for a radical overhaul of the Junior Certificate, teachers said yesterday.

They were responding to Education Minister Ruairi Quinn's plans to introduce continuous assessment to the system in what teachers said amounted to "sweeping educational reform".

For the third time in more than two decades, attempts are being made to change the way young students are tested in school which could result in written exams accounting for up to half of their Junior Cert marks.

If accepted, the first revised exam could take place in 2015. But even though the new proposals have yet to be finalised, the minister was bluntly told yesterday that given the cuts already beginning to bite, now was not the time to introduce such a measure.

The Teachers' Union of Ireland -- one of the two teacher unions whose agreement would be needed to make any new assessment system work -- urged the minister to hold off on any such proposals for the next one or two years.

"In the context of the current climate of education cuts, now is not the time for sweeping educational reform," union general secretary Peter MacMenamin said.


He said it was time to "insulate" the core educational service to students, not move focus away from it. Unlike the main secondary union, the Association of Secondary Teachers in Ireland (ASTI), the TUI does not have a difficulty with the concept of teachers assessing their own students.

Already about half of the TUI's 12,000 members were involved in assessing their own students for certification purposes at third level and in further education. But with cutbacks and threats to raise the pupil-teacher ratio as part of the next Budget, now was not the best time to introduce this new measure, said Mr MacMenamin.

ASTI, however, remains implacably opposed to its teachers assessing their own pupils. "We are in favour of Junior Cert reform but we have a policy that teachers do not assess their own students for state examinations and nothing has changed in relation to that," said a spokeswoman.

ASTI fears that assessment by students' own teachers would damage the student-teacher relationship and place them in a position of adjudicator rather than advocate of their students.

Teachers in the UK and elsewhere succesfully use a form of continuous assessment. But teachers here differ over aspects of continuous assessment, with some favouring assessment by other teachers instead of by themselves. Earlier this year, the minister acknowledged the social pressure teachers might face in assessing their own students. But officials believe there are ways around this.

Irish Independent

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