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Probe into exam 'grade inflation'

EDUCATION chiefs have launched two investigations into allegations of grade inflation in Leaving Cert and university results.

The inquiries are being carried out by senior officials from the Department of Education, with preliminary results expected within days.

The move has come following criticisms of the quality of Irish graduates by US multinational companies such as Google and Intel. The concerns were raised with Minister for Education Batt O'Keeffe, who then ordered the probes.

Education officials are reviewing the number of first-class honours degrees awarded by third level institutions since 1991 and the number of higher grades in the Leaving Certificate between 1992 and 2009.

Studies have shown that the percentage of top university degrees in Ireland has almost trebled in the past 15 years.

In addition, the number of straight A Leaving Certificate results is up 500pc.

Both the Higher Education Authority (HEA) and the State Examinations Commission (SEC) have been consulted as part of the investigations.

The Government has been forced to act in the face of mounting criticisms of the 'dumbing down' of the Irish educational system.

Mr O'Keeffe had held a series of meetings with major US multinationals where the concerns were raised.

Former Intel chief executive Dr Craig Barrett levelled criticisms at the Farmleigh economic summit in June and again earlier this month.

The reviews under way are expected to find unequivocal evidence of grade inflation.

Dr Barrett, a key adviser to US president Barack Obama, said Ireland's education system needed to do better if the economy was to compete on the world stage.

He put forward a 10-point plan, with a strong focus on setting higher performance expectations for the education system.