Junior Cert: Some dialect difficulties in full Irish day

It was a full day of Irish for around half the 55,000 Junior Certificate students taking the subject at higher level yesterday.

Ellie King, Sophie Somers Newry, Calub Cullen, and Josh Webster at Ramsgrange Community School, Co Wexford, yesterday. Picture: Mary Browne

While some may have taken issue with the difficulty of Donegal-Irish dialects on one listening comprehension, Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI) subject spokeswoman Ruth Morrissey said all major dialects need to be examined to be fair to students from all parts of the country.

She thought the inclusion of a comprehension based on an Irish translation of the Diary of A Wimpy Kid novels was modern and in keeping with what young people read. While vocabulary in an article about a green city may have been unfamiliar, she thought the questions about it were accessible.

She found nothing unexpected in the grammar section and said there was a broad range of composition choices on topics that included favourite school subjects, soccer, and Easter holidays. A debate option about social media was also considered current.

Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI) subject spokesman Robbie Cronin said many students were grateful they could understand the essay titles, particularly the account of an incident which happened on the way home from school. He said the piece on a new green city in China was topical.

He thought a news item in the listening test about a young scientist award winner was difficult, though.

“Students of Irish hear the pieces only twice, as distinct from the other modern languages which are heard three times. My students said that they felt they hadn’t enough time to write down the answers,” he said.

Mr Cronin said the afternoon’s second paper for higher-level students was quite student-friendly, with an interesting unseen prose piece about a Lamborghini car.

While the studied prose section had no surprises, he thought the unseen poetry was more challenging but students would have been well prepared for the themes like happiness and sadness that they could have answered about on studied poetry.

Ms Morrissey thought questions on the unseen poem and comprehension were fair and set at an appropriate standard. She said the unseen poem often throws students a curve ball but the questions this year were much fairer.

Junior Certificate students Leah O’Connell, Adam Kelly, and Julia Orchowska at Ramsgrange Community School, Co Wexford. Picture: Mary Browne

Although a letter option about a newspaper item on dogs would have been tough, Ms Morrissey said most students typically choose the informal letter and both choices on that score were very fair.

Mr Cronin said listening test problems were felt most by ordinary level students, many of whom left blank spaces for questions on the news item when they did their single Irish paper in the morning.

While the reading comprehensions were good, he said, they were considered a bit dated as one wrote about the ‘upcoming’ Ed Sheeran concerts which have already taken place since the exam paper would have been prepared.

Mr Cronin also took issue with graphics in the ordinary-level written section, saying one was very confusing .

Ms Morrissey said the ordinary-level exam was very much in line with those of previous years. She thought the pictures were clear and allowed students with any standard of Irish to develop their answers.

She said the item on Ed Sheeran and another about Cork GAA star Rena Buckley were nice passages covering topics with which young people would be familiar.


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