Letter to the Editor: Exam system should be preserved

It’s that time of year again. Examinations are looming on the horizon and stress is a major concern for pupils and parents. The current assessment system at secondary schools, is for the most part, based on the production of well-researched and well-presented written information illustrating a good understanding of a particular topic. 

The preparation process involves studying and memorising material in a focused manner, a strategy which has been perfected by specialist colleges.

This methodology usually results in excellent leaving certificate results for their students who are primarily from middle-class backgrounds.

Targeted rote learning is also adopted by many other diligent pupils who devise their own study plans and ingenious memory-boosting techniques. 

The cultivation of a good mode of expression, does, of course, benefit all students. While many perfectionists may regard rote learning as insubstantial and old fashioned in comparison to creativeness and critical evaluation of topics we must remember that results are extremely important in order to secure sufficient points for ones chosen a course at a university or regional college.

Despite its detractors, our points-based secondary school examination system is primarily equitable and performance-related. It does, in fact, compare favourably with the antiquated class and religious regulations which prevailed in Ireland up to the mid-1950s period. 

We are referring to an era when teachers in technological schools were ordered not to offer Latin to their students, many of whom came from lower class backgrounds.

This regulation undoubtedly deprived certain first-rate students of entering the university as Latin was a mandatory subject for admittance in those times. 

Furthermore, Catholic students who wished to study at Trinity College had to obtain dispensations from their bishops, a privilege which wasn’t always granted.

This institution housed an assortment of the diligent and the indolent from primarily affluent Protestant and professional classes. 

Interestingly, certain injustices regarding admittance to prestigious universities have been recently highlighted in the US as well. 

It was found that some wealthy and famous parents used bribery to secure places for their children in establishments such as Georgetown and Yale, a strategy, which undoubtedly deprived more deserving applicants of admittance.

Perhaps we should ensure that our current Irish leaving certificate examination system is preserved. 

The criteria for admittance to our universities should remain equitable and untainted by unfair privilege or wealth. 

Diligence and good performance should be the barometers of success.

Margaret Humphreys

Co Cork

This reader's opinion was originally published in the letters page of the Irish Examiner print edition on 9 May 2019.

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