Around 2,500 students at over 100 schools are expected to take politics and society as a Leaving Certificate subject in 2020.
Nearly 1,000 students at 41 schools are already lined up to be the first examined in the subject next June, but another 67 schools have expressed interest in teaching it from next September.
Demand appears to have reduced since a call went out to schools two years ago when 115 expressions of interest were received. That is more than the 108 that would be teaching it by next September if those which have declared an interest go on to do so and the 41 first-phase schools retain it as an option for their students.
The subject is intended to develop active citizenship among students, as well as informing them how social and political institutions work at local, national, European and global level. It is organised into four main areas: Power and decision-making, active citizenship, human rights and responsibilities, and globalisation and localisation.
Like a number of senior-cycle subjects, part of the Leaving Certificate marks are awarded for a project completed separately to the final written exam. Politics and society students doing the Leaving Certificate next June will receive up to 20% of the marks for a citizenship project that can include raising awareness of changing Irish identities, creation of — or involvement in — a campaign about sustainable development, or a survey and action around the voice of students in school matters.
The Department of Education said figures supplied by the 41 schools chosen for the first phase of the subject’s introduction last year suggest that just under 1,000 students will sit the Leaving Certificate exams in 2018.
All other schools were invited in September to express interest by the end of last month, in order to allow the planning of appropriate training for teachers intending to deliver the course from next autumn. Those who are being lined up to teach the subject need to already be working at the schools, and to have studied politics, sociology, philosophy, anthropology or related areas at third level. They should also have experience of teaching related school subjects like history, economics, or CSPE, or other experience like related transition-year modules or projects.
The slight decline in interest could be linked to the planned introduction of a Leaving Certificate computer science course next year. Around 25 to 40 schools will be selected to begin teaching it next September from among those schools which apply to do so by the end of next week.
Coding skills in maths curriculum
The building blocks of coding are to be introduced in a proposed new maths curriculum for pupils up to second class.
Although the how, where and when decisions about making coding an integral part of primary education are to be part of a wider review of the primary curriculum, it is intended to embed related skills in the earliest teaching of maths.
The National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) said computational thinking, and flexible and creative thinking skills, will form part of the course it has drafted and is now being sent out for public consultation. It said the new curriculum contributes to the foundations of coding by allowing children to develop those skills through playful, collaborative and engaging learning experiences.
Education Minister Richard Bruton asked the NCCA last year to look at how every child could be given a chance to develop such skills. He suggested using the experiences and learning from popular CoderDojo classes being taken by thousands of young people coding outside of school.
The NCCA said its examination of computer science and coding at primary level in 22 countries shows several approaches are being taken. These include offering standalone courses or subjects, integrating these topics into science or maths (or both), or embedding them across the entire primary curriculum. The approach to be taken here will be considered in a wider review of the primary curriculum that is continuing into next year.
“This review will determine decisions about the purpose, structure, stages, time allocations, and content of a redeveloped curriculum,” says the NCCA’s draft maths curriculum for children from junior infants to second class.
It is expected to be delivered from September 2018 and additional support material will be given to teachers of pupils with special educational needs.
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