Ruairi Quinn readies politics for Leaving Cert

Students preparing for the Junior Certificate in June could be the first with the option to take politics as a Leaving Certificate subject.

Ruairi Quinn: Education Minister ‘very committed’ to making politics a Leaving Cert subject. Picture: Sam Boal

The politics and society course has been designed since 2011, but some issues need to be ironed out before deciding on its introduction, including a check of whether the syllabus needs updating.

Education Minister Ruairi Quinn wants to see it as an examinable subject for school leavers in 2017.

“I would like to think that students starting transition year next September could aim towards taking politics and society as a Leaving Certificate subject three years hence,” he told the Dáil recently.

The Department of Education has asked the advice of the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) on a number of issues that must be addressed before the subject can be made available.

“There may be some issues around the preparation of examination questions but we need to do something of this order and I am very committed to making it happen,” Mr Quinn said.

Earlier this month, he discussed with the Teaching Council what qualifications should be needed to teach the subject, something it will decide based on the syllabus and discussions with the NCCA.

Work on the new subject began with a consultation in 2006, leading to finalisation and approval of the politics and society syllabus three years ago. It aims to develop students’ abilities to be reflective and active citizens through insights and skills of social and political sciences.

The key themes such as democracy, culture, conflict, globalisation, equality, diversity, and sustainable development will be applied to students’local environment.

They might explore, for example, democracy in their schools or a local sports club, the potential for conflict between part-time employees and employers, and the global reach of television and sites like YouTube.

Up to 20% of Leaving Certificate marks will go for students’ reports on an active citizenship project.

The NCCA in 2011 proposed working initially with a small number of schools ahead of full introduction, and the implementation plan is now being updated.

All Junior Certificate students must study civic, social and political education, the only subject with a common-level paper instead of a choice of higher and ordinary level. It will be a short course, rather than a full subject, for the new Junior Cycle Student Award.

The introduction of the replacement qualification for the Junior Certificate is to begin in September, but results of teacher union ballots on withdrawing co-operation will be known on Wednesday and could see Mr Quinn’s reform plans stalled.

The Association and Secondary Teachers Ireland and Teachers’ Union of Ireland say abolishing externally-marked final exams and having teachers mark their own students instead is unacceptable.

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