Thursday 20 June 2019

Editorial: 'Numbers sitting Leaving Cert show how far we have come'

The exam is where you begin, but where you finish is in your own hands (Stock image)
The exam is where you begin, but where you finish is in your own hands (Stock image)


If our climate is a bit off kilter and the corncrake has yet to sing, we know it is summer because the Leaving Cert is upon us.

Today 124,000 people will begin to take some of the four million exam papers which have been spirited around the country in recent days.

The figures tell their own story: were one to turn back the clock some five decades, only 17,000 people would have sat the exam.

Donogh O'Malley's free education scheme sowed seeds of success generations continue to harvest.

But half a century ago, students went into the civil service, or whatever employment they could find, and the rest went overseas. Today the Leaving Cert is really another signpost on a road of lifelong learning.

Bodies such as Ibec have long been critical of the exam, saying it is overly dependent on learning by rote.

It has also been slated for its failure to measure analytical and interpersonal skills, all of which may well be true.

Everyone who has ever come through the process will no doubt find fault with the notion that any single exam can accurately assess the efficacy of years of education. Nevertheless it is an important milestone on any career path, but thankfully, not the only one.

There are many byroads and tributaries from the mainstream into third-level education.

There are also apprenticeships, training programmes and internships which offer fulfilling futures.

It is also vital to remember no matter what calibre of student you are, tests as they say are for learning, not just passing, but in life it is generally character that prevails.

But the class of 2019 have already shown they are high achievers.

The numbers taking higher-level subjects have matched the record levels set last year.

Some 38pc will also take higher-level maths.

It is a testament to teachers and parents, for that matter, that according to research carried out in recent years, in European terms Ireland has the highest percentage of young people in the 30 to 34-year age bracket who had gone to third-level education - 52.3pc in 2015, which was way up from 38.6pc in 2004.

The study even placed us ahead of countries such as Norway, Sweden and Switzerland.

For those feeling anxious, that is entirely natural, but it is useful to remember that no one is in full control of anything, and that includes exams. One can only do one's best.

It's also worth noting if the problem can be solved, why worry? And if it can't, worrying won't help.

The exam is merely where you begin, but where you finish is in your own hands, and in life there are many starts.

To paraphrase the educational historian Diane Ravitch: not everyone can shine in standardised tests because not everyone has a standardised mind.

Irish Independent

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