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Teachers could block Junior Cert reform

EDUCATION Minister Ruairi Quinn will today begin trying to convince teachers' unions to accept radical new proposals to overhaul the Junior Cert exam.

Mr Quinn is expected to face resistance from some teachers.

Under the new arrangements students would carry more responsibility for their own learning, through building portfolios of work, and taking part in greater levels of continuous assessment.

However, there are question marks over whether the Government will cough up the funding necessary to implement the proposals.

The reforms will result in a massive and costly teacher training programme, while schools will also need to be kitted out new IT equipment.


Concern is also expected to be raised over the possibility of 'subjectivity' and 'favouritism' if teachers mark their own students' work.

The Association of Secondary School Teachers in Ireland (ASTI) has already questioned the proposals that would cap the number of subjects at eight.

It said that it had the potential to cause confusion for students and parents and questioned who would decide what eight subjects a student would take.

The organisation's general secretary, Pat King, also reiterated the ASTI's opposition to teachers assessing their own students.

"We still have serious concerns that proposals don't go far enough to meet our concerns," he said.

Meanwhile, The Teachers' Union of Ireland (TUI) welcomed the measures but said it had reservations over whether the necessary resources would be forthcoming.

The union said that while it is not against continuous assessment, teachers would need to be paid for carrying out the function.


The National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) has unanimously backed the proposals and are expected to make a strong case to Mr Quinn.

The organisation says the current exam falls short of what students require at that age and that a significant number are at risk of disengaging from the education system.

Mr Quinn reiterated that junior cert reform is his priority after the ranking of 15-year-old students in Ireland slumped in the last report carried out by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

A Department of Education spokesperson could not provide a comment from the minister as he has not yet had a chance to consider the proposals.