Education awards could be at risk, warn teachers

THE standards and reputation of further education awards could be at risk from proposed changes to assessment methods, teachers have warned.

The Further Education and Training Awards Council wants to allow colleges appoint their own external authenticators to approve marking of exams and other assessments on Post Leaving Certificate (PLC) and other courses under its remit. The council normally appoints external examiners to these colleges with powers to adjust grades up or down if appropriate.

But fears have been raised by the Teachers Union of Ireland (TUI) that the new system will be unfair and will lack transparency.

“There is a genuine concern among college staff about a possible diminution of standards, if colleges can bring in somebody they know to monitor exam results without independent scrutiny,” said TUI assistant general secretary Declan Glynn.

“There are 30,000 students in the PLC sector and there is potential for the university and institute of technology to have concerns about links from PLC courses to their diplomas and degrees. If there’s a credibility issue about the process, it undermines the sector,” he said.

The TUI has asked the council to defer any changes to assessment procedures for two years to allow discussions.

Council chief executive Stan McHugh said it is still in talks with unions and training providers on the new assessments.

“Under the Qualifications Act 1999, it is providers who are responsible for assessment and this has always been the method for FÁS and other trainers apart from the PLC colleges.

“We are only introducing these after colleges and other providers have introduced quality assurance systems and there will be no drop in standards. We will also be monitoring the external assessment procedures to make sure none of the fears become a reality,” Mr McHugh said.

The TUI has also raised its concerns with the Department of Education and the Irish Vocational Education Association, whose member Vocational Education Committees (VECs) manage PLC colleges.

The changes would also affect assessment of other council-accredited courses run by private trainers and by State agencies such as FÁS, Teagasc and fisheries body Bord Iascaigh Mhara.

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