'Inflexible' Leaving Cert uses 'limited range' of assessments, says Taoiseach

Micheál Martin backed the idea of teaching European languages in primary schools. 
'Inflexible' Leaving Cert uses 'limited range' of assessments, says Taoiseach

Taoiseach Micheál Martin: 'Across all levels of education, we must be open to innovation and addressing clear challenges faced by our country.' File picture: Julien Behal

The Leaving Certificate is “often too inflexible” and uses a “very limited range” of methods for assessing learning, Taoiseach Micheál Martin has told educators.

Mr Martin was speaking at the launch of the 2020 Education Matters Education Yearbook this afternoon.

In a year defined by Covid-19, we also saw a "once-in-a-century event in the world of education", according to Dr Brian Mooney, editor of this year's yearbook. 

During his address as the keynote speaker, Mr Martin discussed the policies and developments over the past year that he believes will shape the sector moving forward. 

“Across all levels of education, we must be open to innovation and addressing clear challenges faced by our country,” Mr Martin said. 

As much as possible needs to be learned from the recent experience with the Leaving Certificate, he added.

We’ve known for many years that the Leaving Certificate is often too inflexible and it uses a very limited range of methods for learning assessment.

“This became even clearer during 2020 when, with no notice and with great pressure on everyone, a new system had to be put in place," Mr Martin said.

“Obviously, we need to develop a more permanent backstop but, equally, we need to learn as much as possible from recent experience and see how we could do things differently.” 

Most countries in Europe have in place a mixed approach to assessment at school-leaving stage, he said. 

“We need to seriously engage with the potential benefits of this for Ireland. Ways where we can do more to encourage independent thinking and creativity must be considered.”

Mr Martin also said there is a need to introduce a full, national scheme for teaching European languages in primary schools, and to build on the "early steps" made on giving every child access to music and cultural activities in school. 

At third level, more needs to be done to value the role played by further education, "both economically and socially", he said. 

"Apprenticeships and similar qualifications deserve a renewed level of respect and priority. The creation of a new Department of Further and Higher Education will play an important role in creating a new agenda for education," Mr Martin said. 

More than 70 authors chronicled the educational highlights in the sector over the past year for the 2020 Education Yearbook. 

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