There is a simple, highly efficient, highly effective solution to the Leaving Cert exams problem. It is based on what Emeritus Professor of Education Áine Hyland, our foremost authority on the subject, said recently.
She reminded us of the well-known fact that proficiency in English and maths is the top predictor of success in third-level studies.
She might have added that proficiency in literacy and numeracy has always been the top predictor of success in work performance of all kinds.
So, why not have only English and maths tested at the end of July, for both Junior and Leaving Certs? If that had been said a year ago it would have tempted pupils to ignore the other subjects. As it wasn’t, they haven’t done so.
If, for the next 10 weeks, both sets of pupils and their in-school and outside-school coaches focused daily during 10 of their awake 16 hours on English and maths we would have the best-qualified (for third-level study and work overall) Leaving Certs ever!
We could go further. We could allot 40pc of the marks for numeracy and literacy, with sample test papers sent to newspapers within a week.
The Certificates would indicate success percentages for each of the four numeracy, literacy, English and maths tests.
We could then ring-fence a few million of the billions now being borrowed at sub-zero interest rate to incentivise. We could give every examinee €1,000, say for every percentage of the average for the four tests. The top performers would get nearly €100,000 each. Few of the others would get less than €10,000. If that looks too generous, all the pupils deserve more than that, because of the stress they have had to endure for months. Also, of course, third-level courses could begin as usual in September.
Children are turning into snowflakes through boredom
There are a plethora of media comments regarding quick-tempered nine- and 10-year-old children who are angry all the time since lockdown. There is careful avoidance, with all due political correctness, to the issue of children behaving themselves.
An ancient concept, I accept – ‘good behaviour’ – but not outlawed as an expression at this time of writing, I hope. Child psychology also caters for the words ‘no’, ‘stop’, ‘don’t do that’, and quite a few more mild terms of disapproval which require the attention of children and grown-ups alike.
There is also, of course, the problem that a parent might not realise their pride and joy is turning into a snowflake through boredom.
I would advise the child is encouraged to become fed down instead of fed up; simple terms that a child immediately understands, essentially.
That’s what I was told when I was certain that the world revolved around me at that age, and that everyone ought to get turned on to my programme.
Bantry, Co Cork
We must balance data needs with freedoms in pandemic
The coronavirus pandemic crisis has been deemed to be an information problem. Who has had it? Who is carrying it? Do they have immunity?
Fortunately, unlike our ancestors, we have digital tools to track it.
However, we must balance the need to collect data with the right to individual freedom. The well-intentioned use of this technology could have unintended consequences, leading to the creation of a surveillance state.
However, Taiwan provides a hybrid model between the extremes of US liberalism and Chinese autocracy.
It practises “participatory self-surveillance”, or voluntary co-operation, between the government and the people. Citizens participate in capturing, using and protecting the data.
The only alternative to sharing data during the pandemic would seem to be interminable lockdown. This bleak prospect is surely a greater threat to individual freedom.
Drogheda, Co Louth
Predictable past ways will soon return after this passes
Is it not somewhat ironic the changes since Covid-19 arrived? The HSE, long pilloried, is now top of the pile and a much-derided Government can now do no wrong.
A much-maligned younger generation have also seemed to buy in to the general mood of helping those in need.
While I appreciate all this feel-good factor in our time of great need, I think that we won’t have to wait too long when this pandemic passes until the sad and predictable past ways haunt us once again.
I hope I am wrong.