Leaving Cert exams cannot be 'another yo-yo' of uncertainty

Leaving Cert exams cannot be 'another yo-yo' of uncertainty

Universities Association has called for the introduction of an agreed and stable grade distribution model ahead of the 2022 State exams.

Next year’s Leaving Cert exams cannot be “another yo-yo” as two years of changes to exams due to Covid have distorted the entry threshold to third-level, universities have warned.

The Irish Universities Association (IUA) has called for the introduction of an agreed and stable grade distribution model ahead of the 2022 State exams. Failure to do so runs the risk of disadvantaging students, according to Jim Miley, president of the IUA.

Mr Miley was speaking at the Oireachtas education committee on today as it met to continue its discussions on Leaving Cert reform. In 2019, 13% of students achieved 500 points or more, Mr. Miley told the committee. 

“That was 26% this year, it doubled. When we say recalibrate, we have to level the curve here”, he said, adding that next year there cannot be ‘another yo-yo’ when it comes to results. 

"I think whatever decisions are taken have to gently flatten the curve. Ideally, it should not sit at the level it is at, it should come back down. That needs to be carefully calibrated. If we don't, we will continue disadvantage because you're either disadvantaging next year’s students, or students from last year or the year before.” 

Stability is absolutely critical, he said. 

“Even if it's an imperfect system. Get it stable and make the changes on that.” 

Changes made to the Leaving Cert exams due to Covid in 2020 and 2021 resulted in record grade inflation. 

"Covid has obviously been the issue here," said Joseph Ryan, the chief executive of the Technological Higher Education Association. 

"I think the unfairness, is particularly for those who are presenting with results from previous years. If things stay stable, there will have to be some mechanism to accommodate that, to recognise that, for a period. I think to try and get the stability back in the system that is the critical piece here.”

While an interview aspect to college entry would be welcomed by many people, it would also be an "extremely elaborate, comprehensive, and costly" process to set up and run each year, Mr Miley told the committee. Interviews and an exam as part of a matriculation-style college entry have been considered but the third-level system is under-resourced to handle the numbers that apply, he said. 

“We have, in total, upwards of 80,000 per year who apply [to college],” he said. Each of these entrants would need to be interviewed.

“We have a very under-resourced third-level system as we stand and throwing something like that on top of an under-resourced system, would I think further damage it, in our view.” 

Bias is also another issue, he said, and that Ireland is a small country. 

“You tend to know people in different parts of the country. I would fear for a system that would have an over-reliance [on that] so I think you'd have to make sure that if you were setting up that process, you would have very strong filters against bias.”

The Oireachtas education committee also heard calls for Norma Foley, the Minister for Education, to publish a report on reforming the Leaving Cert, as a priority. The National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) began a review of Senior Cycle education in 2016.

“I really plead for the Department of Education to publish the NCCA report, and to make Leaving Cert reform a priority,” said Paul Kehoe, chair of the committee.

More in this section

Puzzles logo
IE-logo

Puzzles hub

Visit our brain gym where you will find simple and cryptic crosswords, sudoku puzzles and much more. Updated at midnight every day. PS ... We would love to hear your feedback on the section right HERE.

Puzzles logo
IE-logo

Puzzles hub

Visit our brain gym where you will find simple and cryptic crosswords, sudoku puzzles and much more. Updated at midnight every day. PS ... We would love to hear your feedback on the section right HERE.