Monday 19 February 2018

Leaving Cert reform is a challenge worth taking

Major changes are being proposed for the Leaving Cert. Picture posed. Thinkstock
Major changes are being proposed for the Leaving Cert. Picture posed. Thinkstock

PARENTS, siblings, aunts, uncles, neighbours, just about everyone acquainted with a Leaving Certificate candidate knows the pressure they are under in the run-up to the June exams. Research from the Economic and Social Research Institute, published in 2012, detailed how thousands of sixth-years suffer high levels of stress and lose sleep worrying about the exams. They endure punishing study regimes and pay for grinds in the hope of making marginal gains that will allow them to snatch a college place, perhaps from an equally committed, hard-working student living down the road whose parents could not afford the grinds.

Leaving Certificate candidates can, unjustifiably, feel they have let themselves down because they miss out on a college course by a miserable five points. The necessary marks could have been lost in an answer to part of a single question, over hours and days spent in the exam hall.

It is bad for students' mental and physical health. Nor does the current system equip many school-leavers for a life of work where they will face complex issues and tasks that will require analysis and critical-thinking skills. The rote learning encouraged by the present Leaving Certificate grading scale/CAO points system is anathema to developing those skills.

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