The new, improved Junior Cert kicks off in 2014
School pupils currently in fifth class in primary school will be the first to experience the main reforms planned for the junior cycle of secondary school, which were announced last week by the Minister for Education and Skills, Ruairi Quinn.
The Junior Certificate examinations, which take place at the end of the three- year junior cycle, will be replaced with a school-based model of assessment with an emphasis on the quality of students' learning experience.
The Junior Certificate, which replaced the old Group and Intermediate Certificates, was first examined in 1992. At first it was naturally regarded as being an improvement on its predecessors. But evaluation of the programme over time has found it wanting.
Last November, the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) produced a report entitled, 'Towards a Framework for Junior Cycle -- Innovation and Identity', and its proposals were broadly accepted in the junior cycle reforms announced last week.
The learning at the core of the proposed new junior cycle is described in 24 "statements of learning". The statements describe what students should know, understand, value, and be able to do at the end of the cycle.
They are underpinned by eight principles: quality; wellbeing; creativity and innovation; choice and flexibility; engagement and participation; inclusive education; continuity and development; and learning to learn.
Research shows the ongoing assessment of students' achievement over time (rather than the use of a once-off final examination) can improve the quality of learning outcomes across the three years of lower secondary education.
English will be the first subject to be introduced to first-year students in 2014.
The State Examinations Commission (SEC) will be involved in the assessment of English, Irish and mathematics in the initial years because of the central role these subjects play.
They will be examined at higher and ordinary level, while all other subjects will be assessed at common level.
This school-based model of assessment is just one element of the changed approach to assessment in the new junior cycle. From 2014, students in second year will sit standardised tests in English reading and maths, and Irish reading in Irish-medium schools.
Open days Today: the gradireland Graduate Careers Fair 2012 takes place in the Main Hall, RDS, Dublin from 11am to 5pm A cluster of open days takes place this weekend in Limerick. The University of Limerick hosts two open days on Friday and Saturday next, October 12 and 13. Limerick Institute of Technology (LIT) holds its open days on the same days, Friday 12 and on Saturday, October 13. Mary Immaculate College of Education, Limerick, also hosts its open day on Friday 12, and a free shuttle bus service will operate between UL, LIT and Mary Immaculate College on that day. Mary Immaculate College will also host an open morning from 11 am to 1 pm on Saturday 13. Shannon College of Hotel Management, Shannon, Co Clare, hosts its open day on Friday, October 12. University College Cork (UCC) hosts its October open day on Saturday next, October 13. October 15 is the deadline for receipt at UCAS (the British Universities and Colleges Admissions Service) of applications to any course in Oxford or Cambridge, and for all applications for courses in any British university in medicine, dentistry, and veterinary medicine/science. The normal closing date for most other UCAS courses is January 15.