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No Junior Cert subject cap until 2017, says Quinn

THE eight-subject cap on the Junior Cert will not be effective across the country until the 2017 exams.

Education Minister Ruairi Quinn said only students starting second level in 2014 will not be allowed to take more than eight subjects for their exams.

But individual schools will be at liberty to introduce the measure before the deadline.

The cap was initially planned to take effect in 2012 -- for pupils taking their exams in 2015 -- but teachers and parents were concerned that it did not leave schools with enough time to prepare for the change.

Speaking at the National Association of Principals and Deputy Principals annual conference in Killarney yesterday, Mr Quinn said: "If schools can limit the number of exam subjects for students enrolling in next year or the year after, then I encourage them to do so."

The majority of students who sit the exams take 10 subjects but many take more, which has been blamed for the declining literacy and numeracy standards of Irish 15-year-olds in international surveys.


A study from the Economic and Social Research Institute showed that if students sit too many exams on different subjects, it kept them from interacting efficiently with their teachers.

It also meant that many were taking more than they could handle.

Around eight in 10 Junior Cert students sat 10 or more subjects this year, up from 20pc in 1995.

Mr Quinn said yesterday that about 2,000 students take 12 subjects or more and 21,000 take 11 subjects, which was "far too many for most students".

He also said that he would encourage institutions to apply the cap as early as next year or in 2013 as it would "allow more time for literacy and numeracy and assist in the planning for the change that is coming anyway in 2014".

While students will be restricted to eight subjects for exam purposes, the new-style Junior Cert will allow them to study other subjects as well.