Wednesday 19 June 2019

Are proposed changes to Leaving Cert grades a dumming down of standard?

I remember my Leaving Certificate exams like they were yesterday rather than the lifetime ago they actually were.

I would like to say that my vivid memories stem from the fact that I did exceptionally well in my exams and they were culmination of my academic excellence following five years of secondary school.

I was however no A student and was rather middle of the road in terms of point scoring.

Rather, the standout memories of my Leaving Cert exams was that the first day of the Leaving Cert and two papers in English fell on the same day as my 18th birthday. A rue smile comes across my face when I hear of wild 18th birthday celebrations, a cake from the Home Bakery was probably the highlight of my 18th as I arrived home suffering from writers cramp following two long English papers and with two Maths papers ahead to do some last minute cramming for before the weekend.

The other abiding memory I have of the Leaving Certificate exams is the horror and pressure of the points race to try and secure a place in college.

After Christmas I recall the mocks and the oral exams and the dithering on whether I would be better off dropping honours maths which I struggled with throughout fifth and sixth year in order to concentrate on other subjects or stick with the subject and hope that on a good day I could squeeze a C grade and therefore more points than I could earn with a higher grade on the pass paper.

Such dilemas were common place among myself and fellow classmates in all manner of subjects, but if proposals floated last week follow through tomorrow's Leaving Certificates students will have less to worry about.

Already today's students who like me are stuck in no man's land between honours and pass maths are spared the agony and dilmea over whether to continue with honours Maths or drop to the pass level paper due to the additional 25 bonus points for students who take the honours maths paper and pass the exam.

Last week a further restructuring and recalibrating of the exams was announced with the fail mark for honours papers dropping to 30%. A student who sits an honours papers and gets a mark between 30% and 40% will have passed the exam, get points and meet the basic requirement for many college courses.

As an outsider to the education system and a parent whose children have not reached the state exam stage, I do not understand the constant tinkering with the system.

First off the points system changed, then A1, A2 and A3, etc, etc grades were introduced and now further changes are being suggested.

Are these changes a dumming down of the standard, making it easier for students to pass the exams and therefore producing a statistic to suggest our education standards are increasing?

I hate to use the phrase - in my day - which makes me sound like an old fogey but certainly ancedotal evidence from teachers, lecturers and prospective employers who come across students fresh out of school would support the argument that standards are not as high today as in previous generations.

Irish Independent