Junior Cycle gears up with old and new

A mix of the old and the new are among the books, plays, and films that young teens can study for the first Junior Cycle Student Award in 2017.

While debate continues about who should mark students on their exams for the qualification to replace the Junior Certificate, the new course list sets out the choices for students starting second level in September.

Films they can study for second- and third-year include Bend It Like Beckham starring Keira Knightley and Corkman Jonathan Rhys-Meyers; Jack Black comedy School of Rock; and Oscar-winning Italian Holocaust movie Life is Beautiful.

They feature alongside children’s favourite ET and Japanese animated fantasy Spirited Away, with the more challenging In America (directed by Dubliner Jim Sheridan), award-winning Whale Rider, and 2012 fantasy drama Beasts of the Southern Wild also listed.

Film is not obligatory but students who do not study one from the list must be able to answer exam questions on a biography, a travel text, or a documentary.

The first-year novels are suggested, rather than obligatory, and include mostly books from the last decade. Those penned by Irish authors include Eoin Colfer’s Artemis Fowl and Derek Landy’s Skulduggery Pleasant; The Real Rebecca by Anna Carey; and Darren Shan’s 2000 novel Cirque du Freak.

They are joined by JRR Tolkien’s The Hobbit, one of John Grisham’s child-lawyer Theodore Boone books, and The Scarecrow And His Servant by Philip Pullman.

More traditional texts are included for study in second- and third-year, with old reliables such as Jane Eyre; Lord of the Flies; To Kill a Mockingbird; and Of Mice and Men listed with more Irish authors. Among them are Celine Kiernan (Into the Grey), John Connolly (The Book of Lost Things) and John Boyne (The Dare).

For drama, there is no escaping Shakespeare as students taking higher-level English must study one of five named plays that include Romeo & Juliet and The Merchant of Venice.

These and works by Sean O’Casey and Oscar Wilde are joined by more contemporary choices, including Munster rugby drama Alone It Stands by John Breen, the stage adaptation of Michael Morpurgo’s War Horse, and Willy Russell’s Blood Brothers.

The list selected by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment is being discussed at workshops for teachers of English, the first subject for which the new assessment system is planned.



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