Teachers support the spreading of the Leaving Cert assessment over a two-year period
Teacher unions say they support dissemination of the assessment for Leaving Cert between grades 5 and 6 with more emphasis on project or practical work.
The emphasis on high-stakes written graduation exams has been linked by many to mental health issues and anxiety among students.
However, the Teachers Union of Ireland (TUI) told the Oireachtas education committee on Tuesday that it supports assessments in fifth grade, which would reduce the pressure on sixth grades. This could mean that students would have accumulated up to 60% of the overall marks in all subjects by the time they took their end-of-school written exams.
The Irish Times understands that this proposal is contained in a report on the reform of Leaving Cert reviewed by Education Minister Norma Foley.
The National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) report says that while there is broad agreement to maintain exams, it is considering placing greater emphasis on continuous assessment, projects, or other elements. courses over a period of two or three years.
TUI General Secretary Michael Gillespie told the committee that graduate subjects are constantly evolving and 22 of them now have second components, while some – like PE – have three.
“We have requested that some of the second component assessments take place in the fifth year, thus reducing the pressure in the sixth year,” he said.
However, he warned that the changes should involve “evolution rather than revolution” and that teachers have engaged in assessing their students for the past two years on an “unprecedented” basis only.
Mr Gillespie also warned that any move towards continuous assessment supervised by Leaving Cert teachers could end up increasing student stress, leading to over-assessment and undermining public confidence.
Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland president Eamon Dennehy said the union had no problem spacing out exams or assessments, as long as they were independently graded.
“I want to be an advocate for my students,” he said. “I don’t want to be a judge, a juror and, if necessary, an executioner. “
Strengths of the current system included a high level of public trust; providing a valid and objective statement of student academic achievement; fairness, impartiality and transparency.
“What is deeply problematic is the fact that the Leaving Certificate exam is the only route for young people leaving school to higher education,” he said.
High school students told the committee that they do not want the traditional Leaving Cert exam to return and that a complete overhaul of the system is needed.
The Irish Second-Level Students’ Union said the disruption of exams due to the pandemic has created a window of opportunity for “radical change” that better reflects the abilities of candidates.
Union president Emer Neville said, “We can’t keep putting bandages on a completely broken system. The solution is clear and it is a complete overhaul of the Leaving Certificate.
She said the union was looking to space out exams over a longer period of time and introduce more diverse assessments in grades five and six.
In addition, she said that students should be able to earn points through extracurricular achievements, while the number of university admission places through entry routes and continuing education should be increased.
“The goal should be to reduce competition in the points race and help students have a level playing field for higher education,” said Ms. Neville.
Labor education spokesperson Aodhán Ó Ríordáin agreed that there is now a “once in a generation” opportunity to transform the Leaving Cert exam.
“I’m haunted by the Leaving Cert I did in 1994 – and I’m 45 … I’ve heard it was trustworthy and transparent, but it hurt so many people …” it’s brutal and savage and puts too much pressure on young people.
Sinn Féin education spokesperson Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire agreed that too much emphasis was placed on end-of-school exams and said the idea of allowing students to accumulate marks from continuous manner during the graduate cycle should be explored.