Negotiating the Leaving Cert: Drama hardly helps students

Negotiating the Leaving Cert: Drama hardly helps students

The Leaving Cert has long been a rite of passage to be negotiated, one way or another, by young people coming to the end of their secondary education.

The 60,000 or so students who got their results yesterday may find it hard to believe but the great drama around the exam is a recent phenomenon. Their parents did not face anything like the same kind of pressure that now seems such an unavoidable feature of the process.

That pressure is so all-encompassing, so normalised, that it adds an unnecessary layer of stress to what, if viewed through the perspective of a life of three-score-and-ten, is still a relatively moderate, low-key challenge. 

It would be dishonest to pretend that blanket media coverage, so convenient at the height of the summer silly season, does not add to what seems with each passing year disproportionate attention. Parents’ natural ambitions for their children inevitably fuel this momentum too.

It is important for everyone to try to realise their academic potential but it is also important to realise that unnecessary pressure hinders that ambition. It is important too to realise that academic success is neither a guarantee nor a necessity for someone to enjoy a full life and rewarding career.

It is hard not to think the class of 2020 might be happier and more successful if this process was rebalanced and seen as just one stepping stone in a life of continued learning — or not as the case may be. Less high drama may lead to better outcomes.

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