Tuesday 23 January 2018

There's no dodging the bullet of life

With Yvonne Joye

SO the Junior cert is to go. Apparently, it feeds too much into exam performance as opposed to engaged learning.

Also, apparently, there's a whole crew in second year who switch off from learning, so best to work things around them and take on board their needs. And we hear the old call made new again to place more emphasis on continuous assessment, incorporating empathy for those who don't quite perform on the day.

It all sounds very nice and very fair. But can someone please tell me exactly when life became fair.

Naturally, I would love for my children to want to learn for the love of learning. Some people are blessed with children like that and they should be glad, very glad, if not just for the endless hours of discussion (read argument) saved. And yes, it would be a much better scenario to have my children accumulate a quality of knowledge as opposed to a preordained prescribed quantity of knowledge. But is it really that simple – given the world we live in.

The world we live in is signposted by markers – communion, confirmation, school exams, job, career, marriage, parenting and a host of all others. With each marker (regardless of performance) comes a new gauge of how we are evolving and an indicator as to how we might like to proceed. More important to my mind, however, is the satisfaction in meeting these milestones and putting them behind us. When I did my Inter Cert (as it was back then) and quite separate from any result, I experienced significant pride in just completing the thing. Doing this universally recognised exam was in itself a personal achievement for me and yes a preparation for later life. I had met and faced an expectation born of the adult world and I was gifted with a confidence and a new-found self-belief – no bad thing for a 15 year old to feel.

And yet I do own sympathy for the argument against the pressure of state exams and accept that performing to the best of one's ability on a given predetermined day can be alienating and daunting. But is it not a necessary evil and integral preparation for the big world out there? A job interview in which you have only one chance to create a first impression? Where does continuous assessment feature here? A presentation by a sales rep to a potential client? Getting it right on the day is really kind of crucial. A surgeon, successful his whole career suddenly has an off-day and loses his patient – for which will he be remembered and which will he himself recall more? Life in all its unfairness, with all due respect, does not stop for off-days.

It would be nice to make it easy and keep the crew in second year focused but are we being a little too sensitive here. Adult life can be full of storms against which we cannot always cushion our kids, but by preparing them, we can at least soften their landing.

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