Time to end the stranglehold of our junior cycle assessment
THIRTY years ago, junior cycle reform was a major item on the agenda of the teacher conferences. The Curriculum and Examinations Board (CEB) had been established by former education minister Gemma Hussey in January 1984.
The board, which was chaired by Ed Walsh, the dynamic, future-focused president of the National Institute for Higher Education in Limerick, was asked to make recommendations on a new unified system of assessment for junior cycle second level as well as to undertake a review of the Leaving Certificate.
It seemed as if Ireland was finally ready to shake off the legacy of the old centralised, examinations-driven second level curriculum, which dated back to 1878 when payment by results had been introduced. Even after payment by results was abolished in 1922, the exam-driven system continued, especially in the voluntary secondary sector, where the Intermediate and the Leaving Certificate became the be-all and the end-all of the life of pupils and teachers. In the vocational and technical school sector, the Day Group Certificate and the Technical Schools (TS) examinations were more student-focused and locally orientated, with school-based assessment carried out by the teachers.