At the final day of the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland in Cork yesterday, delegates unanimously voted against any changes to the Junior Certificate exam which would see teachers assess their own students for certification. The proposed changes set out by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment are central to Education Minister Ruairi Quinn’s plans to overhaul the examination.
ASTI delegates said any plans to have teachers assess their own students for State exams would irrevocably damage the student/teacher relationship and would open the system up to pressure from parents, pupils and school management for good grades, even where they are not justified.
Proposing the motion, delegate Pat Younger said the strength of the current system was that it was objective, impartial and could not be subjected to outside pressure or interference.
“Why are we opposed to teachers assessing their own students? It will undermine the role of the teacher in the classroom where we act as advocates for students… The results could be open to interference… I’m not saying we would adjust the mark as teachers. However, pressure could be applied.
“Our current examination system is objective and impartial. Let’s keep it that way,” he said.
Fingal delegate Eddie McCarthy said such a system would introduce a “nod and a wink” and “golden handshake” culture in examinations whereby teachers could be subjected to outside interference. This view was echoed by Kevin Brogan from Drogheda who said teaching had been spared the corruption scandals which have blighted Irish politics in recent years.
“There will be no objectivity, it will be subjective. We have been free of all of the corruption scandals and that is because we have an exam system that is subjective. Long live that system.”
Dublin delegate Michael O’Flaherty also stressed that school management could put pressure on teachers to increase grades to improve the school’s reputation so enrolment increases, thereby ensuring permanent jobs.
“The classroom environment will change. Teachers will no longer be advocates for their students, they will also be the arbiter of the students final success or failure. Allegations of bias, favouritism and unfairness will all become grounds for appeal,” he said.
Kerry delegate Lilly Cronin said she feared for the health younger teachers facing a career of having to assess their own students for State examinations.
“I pity the young teacher having 30 years ahead of them assessing their own students for certification. Your health would not handle it. You would be morning, noon and night bombarded by: ‘Why didn’t Mary get an A or a B’.”