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No more learning off by heart in radical plans to move Junior Cert away from written exams

STUDENTS may soon sit as few as six exams according to "radical" new proposals to reform the Junior Cert.

Education Minister Ruairi Quinn will today begin considering the controversial measures, which will see a major shift away from the written exam.

Under the plan, 40pc of the marks will be allocated to portfolio work over a three-year period, with written exams accounting for 60pc of the grades.

Students will also be given the opportunity to earn grades from school-based events such as plays and musicals, web-based projects and engaging with local communities.

The reform measures have been driven by concerns that students are becoming too accustomed to 'learning off by heart'. Backers of the proposals also claim that they will bring Irish education standards in line with worldwide norms.


The National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) has warned that the current junior cycle is "falling short of what students need" and "that continuing as we are will probably make things worse for our young people".

It also insists that any change must begin with the exam itself as classrooms have "become rehearsal spaces and students focus on learning the script for the performance, rather than on the learning itself".

The Junior Cert will become known as the National Certificate for Junior Cycle Education and will include a cap of eight subjects. Currently, students are allowed to sit up to 12 subjects. And students will be given the opportunity to take up "short courses" which aim to allow them to demonstrate skills for adult and working life.

Separate qualifications for special needs students are also being considered among a raft of reform measures.

The plans mean 40pc of a student's work will be assessed by teachers in their school, with samples of the work being sent to the State's Examination Commission for external checks.

The measures include radical changes to the written exam. With the exception of maths, English and Irish, students will all be examined as common level. The length of exams will also be shortened -- some to only 90 minutes.

The proposals will require a major redesign of the curriculum, as well as an overhaul of technology and significant teacher training. English and art will be the first subjects to be reassessed, with others being phased in later.

The NCCA signed off on the measures this weekend, which are being seen as a base for a future overhaul of the Leaving Cert exam.