Friday 13 December 2019

Junior Cert reform needs more thought

PROPOSALS to reform the Junior Certificate, centred on a system of continuous assessment of half the students' work instead of formal exams, have met with a cautious response from the teaching unions. They are right to be cautious.

The first question that springs to mind is whether the Junior Certificate is worth preserving. If not, discussion of reform is pointless. If it is retained, any changes undertaken should come after expert advice and practical experimentation.

Education Minister Ruairi Quinn now envisages a system that would award 50pc of end-of-cycle marks to students. Among the objectives he hopes this would achieve is stamping out rote learning. He also envisages a system that would overcome the problem of teachers assessing their own students' work.

Ending rote learning is a worthy objective, but it is unclear that a new system would achieve this. One also has to have some doubt about a reform already in train -- reducing the number of Junior Cert subjects to eight.

Students have been consulted on this question. Their views are, in all candour, slightly comical.

They want the number of subjects reduced to three. Certainly our young people deserve their say, but they should take questions that deeply affect their future more seriously.

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