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A testing time: Online learning is not a catch-all solution


Warning: Leaving Cert student Anna O’Connor in Blarney, Co Cork.
Photo: Daragh McSweeney/Provision

Warning: Leaving Cert student Anna O’Connor in Blarney, Co Cork. Photo: Daragh McSweeney/Provision

Warning: Leaving Cert student Anna O’Connor in Blarney, Co Cork. Photo: Daragh McSweeney/Provision

In the midst of a worldwide pandemic there are, of course, many things to discuss - and while the number one factor needs to be public safety, the Leaving Certificate also merits discussion.

I am not trying to take away from the real problem here. The dreadful truth of the situation means the Leaving Cert is but a drop in an ocean of worries. But that doesn't mean it should not be discussed.

The main issue lies not with the regular student. Many of us can continue working ourselves.

The biggest worry is for those who can't. The call has been to think of others. That needs to be considered too.

There are a large number of Leaving Cert students who simply cannot participate in online learning. There are students who don't have access to wi-fi or laptop. There are some who are trying to share technology with siblings. There are students who don't have a space to sit down and learn. There are students living in hotel rooms and direct provision. Not every pupil is able to learn online.

Another issue is the fact many sixth-year students will become ill. Not only that, but many may have to care for sick relatives.

The dire truth is that there will be many losses. Everyone is going to be touched by this. We need to understand that now.

Online learning is not the catch-all solution. We need to acknowledge that.

There has been a call for the Leaving Cert to be deferred until September. I cannot express how detrimental this proposal is.

Sixth year is an extremely trying year for students, with many facing burnout or mental health issues. Adding extra months to an already arduous time is completely wrong. Without access to the regular support network in schools, such as guidance counsellors, we will suffer even more.

It is not the brilliant students who will be affected by this. But those of us who aren't 625-point pupils? We will surely suffer.

It is common speculation that the virus will hang tight into the summer months. But even if it is gone, what becomes of the students who didn't benefit from online learning? What happens to those who had project work to complete? An extended deadline is not enough.

As for the orals, every student is now getting 100pc. I understand this ensures no student is left behind, but what use is that if we cannot properly sit our written exams?

This leaves us with few solutions. Do we get our points based on past performance? A combination of previous results and expected ones for the future? I'm not saying I have a solution. Only that I hope we will be considered when one is being made.

This crisis has shed light on our reliance on two weeks at the beginning of June. I was hoping to go to college this September. The coronavirus pandemic makes me fear for those I love and those I don't even know. It makes me fear for many things. Now, it's making me fear for my future and the future of my fellow sixth years.

We cannot make the system work for just the privileged and able. Let us think of each other. Let us do what's best.

Anna O'Connor lives in Co Cork and is currently studying for her Leaving Cert

Irish Independent