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Our Leaving Certstudents must be guided into future

SOME 56,990 students around Ireland are today digesting their Leaving Certificate results.

The process of calculating points and options has begun. However, an ESRI study released yesterday tells us that nearly half of the student body will regret the choice they make.

That is a shockingly high figure and it begs the question: how exactly we are educating our children?

The ESRI researchers interviewed 753 students from twelve schools three years after they had completed their Leaving Certs. Some 47pc of students regretted their choice of work or the follow up course they'd taken after their exams.

Some blamed it on the guidance counselling - or lack of it - in their schools. Many felt the courses they signed up for did not meet their expectations.

Did you make that mistake too? I did years ago.

For those who did complete their course, they found it was not an area they wanted to work in. For those who did want to work in their chosen area, there were few jobs.

Those who went directly into work after the Leaving Cert had most regrets. Others who took PLC courses but didn't follow onto Higher Level also had high levels of regret.

For those who had completed their higher education course, only one in six were engaged in the types of professional positions which reflected their ability and qualifications.

So what does this tell us?

Clearly our education system is failing our children. While the researchers admit it is a 'complex' problem there are reasons.


If a Minister for Education cuts the number of guidance hours in a school there will be consequences.

It is baffling that in a time when levels of youth depression, anxiety and drug use are on the increase we would consider cutting the one source of help available to students in this regard.

Many of those interviewed by the ESRI came from so-called working-class schools. Their parents cannot afford private guidance and counselling. Equally, many middle-class parents cannot either.

You don't need a Masters to work out why these students may not make informed choices. However, it would be simplistic to put it all down to one erroneous decision.

Crucially there is the concept of expectation. Students who are encouraged and expected to go for their best often give their best.

Those who aren't encouraged, don't. They end up in dead-end jobs or courses that they hate.

So we have to ask: how much of our education system is still tied up in rote learning and how much is designed to encourage and develop skills to make good choices?

The ESRI researchers noted that where grades were equal, pupils who felt their teachers had high expectations for them and nurtured them to go on to further education or training were more likely to do so than those who had a negative experience in the classroom.

This encouragement process begins early. In my experience students work out very quickly what you expect of them and live up or down to that accordingly.

The ESRI said that by Junior Certificate, pupils had a mindset as to whether or not they would do further education after the Leaving Cert.

Emer Smyth, who co-authored the report, said that: "Often teachers don't realise how much they matter, how much a kind word or day-to-day interaction in the corridor can mean to young people.


"We found that kind of interaction matters for achievement post-school, for how young people view themselves and their abilities."

There are various bodies reviewing the State examinations and curriculum and at least former Education Minister Ruairi Quinn pushed for that (and his successor Jan O'Sullivan is continuing this work).

However, it is vital we don't forget the importance of nurturing emotional intelligence and resilience. Our students can make good choices and reach for the best they can be.

And by the way let's not dump it all on our teachers - it begins in the home. Over to you, the parents, then.