As almost 119,000 students begin Junior and Leaving Certificate exams this morning, Brian O’Flynn says his seven A1s in 2013 have not given him a dream life and he is now effectively stuck in a course he is no longer interested in.
“Our system pressures teenagers, who have little to no experience outside the walls of their local classroom, into choosing their lifelong vocations before they even know themselves”, the ex-student of Glanmire Community College in Cork writes in today’s Irish Examiner.
“Society is putting so much pressure on students to become employable that we cannot make clear decisions”, writes the scholarship student of physics at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland.
“We’re supposed to work ourselves to the bone for two years to get good results, while simultaneously taking time to reflect on what we want for our lives. It is an impossible task.”
His views strongly reflect findings in recent Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) research, which highlighted the stress associated with the high-stakes nature of the Leaving Certificate.
Some of the issues are to be addressed by changes to Leaving Certificate grading and the college entry points system from 2017, as well as changes by colleges that should mean students do not have to make specific career choices before finishing school.
The Leaving Certificate is being taken this year by almost 56,000 students, nearly 3,000 will complete the Leaving Certificate Applied, while nearly 60,000 are due to sit the Junior Certificate.
Education Minister Jan O’Sullivan wished them all well and acknowledged that it can be a stressful and trying time at home.
“Family and friends are often crucial in helping students remain calm and focused, and for keeping things in perspective,” she said.
“Thousands of students across the country have worked incredibly hard to prepare for these exams and I sincerely hope that everyone sitting the exams gets the opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge and interest in their subjects,” she said.
The first papers in Leaving Certificate, Leaving Certificate Applied and Junior Certificate this morning are all English, with the last State exams taking place on June 19.