| 16.5°C Dublin

An exam that we need our political leaders to pass

Close

The sixth years of 2020 might offer politicians a lesson on getting on with things. Stock photo: Getty

The sixth years of 2020 might offer politicians a lesson on getting on with things. Stock photo: Getty

Getty Images/Blend Images

The sixth years of 2020 might offer politicians a lesson on getting on with things. Stock photo: Getty

We all feel like we're being tested for exams for which we haven't prepared. At least 61,000 Leaving Cert students can claim to have some kind of answer following the cancellation of their exams.

The pandemic has played hell with all the compass points which we used to navigate our lives by; so it was inevitable even that hitherto inescapable rite of educational passage could not avoid disruption.

Even so, the option of receiving calculated grades is something of a leap in the dark.

It's hardly ideal but like everything else at the moment, the decision was informed by public health advice. The students have been offered clarity rather than certainty as much remains in the balance.

While strict scheduling and precise dates may not be possible, there can be no compromising on fairness or transparency. Education Minister, Joe McHugh, said: "I have made every effort to run the Leaving Certificate as close as possible to the way the examinations were originally intended to be held."

But Covid-19 has cut a swathe through the school year, shredding timetables and traditions. Schools and the Department of Education now have a grave responsibility to make sure that the process is credible, reliable and above all, equitable. Mr McHugh recognised there are "legal vulnerabilities" associated with the new paradigm, but the situation is unprecedented.

The virus has mocked all of our plans. Taoiseach Leo Varadkar's commitment to hold the Leaving Cert "by hook or by crook" shows the folly of taking things for granted with much outside our control. The poet Robert Frost bristled at being described as a professor: "I am not a teacher, but an awakener."

These months have thrown so many questions at us, that to some degree we have all experienced awakenings without the benefit of instruction. But in all tests, teachers advise, there is a formula. You do the easy questions first, the medium questions next, and the hard questions last.

Mr Varadkar yesterday said: "The key test for me and people in our party is can we come up with a programme for government that's in the interests of the country that's realistic and helps get us through this crisis - get people back to work."

This is all very much within the hands of Mr Varadkar and fellow politicians.

It's time to rise to the challenge.

The sixth years of 2020 might offer them a lesson on getting on with things, because there is no other way. It has been 90 days since the election, we are two months into a national emergency.

If they're waiting to be further spoon-fed, they might heed what EM Forster said: "Spoon feeding in the long run teaches us nothing but the shape of the spoon."

Irish Independent