Time to scrap Irish exam bias

It emerged this week that pupils attending private schools and those opting to take the Leaving Certificate through Irish were in the two highest categories that progressed to third-level education directly.

I have no issue with private education as people pay extra for this resource and should expect a delivery on their investment. However, I do have an issue with the Leaving Cert through Irish. People opting to do the exam through Irish have a competitive advantage over their peers, both private and state. They are awarded extra points for nothing and therefore have an unfair advantage. It is now mainstream to do the Leaving in Irish and it’s time to remove this distorted corruption of the State exam points system.

The argument for getting extra points through Irish is not clear, I believe it is a benefit for opting to do the exam in the ‘native’ language rather than the everyday language of Ireland [English]. However, if one were to be rational about it, there are many immigrant children now in Ireland doing their Leaving in their non-native second language, English. Surely they should be given a similar advantage for completing the exam in their non-native tongue?

Let’s level the playing field here and see how the statistics read in six years’ time. It is interesting to see that 10% of a gap exists between Irish opting students and the next English opting exam students. I believe the Irish opting student gets 10% of the marks they didn’t get, free gratis, which ranges between 0 and 6%. I suspect the gap would narrow should the English opting student get those extra marks. It’s enough to push a student up a grade and up in points!

The other item to note, is it time to drop the compulsory requirement to do Irish in non-Irish schools? This would truly level the playing field, and those passionate about Irish could attend and do Irish as a Leaving subject, do all their subjects through Irish with no extra advantage, and those who do not wish to do so could opt out altogether from doing Irish as a subject and restore parity by selecting a subject more suited to their aptitudes.

The State exam would then at least be the same for everyone, at present it is not. Being advantageous to one group at the mercy of others lessens its worth, like it or not.

The statistics may be a bit more credible also as they will compare like-for-like.

Brian McKnight


Co Cork

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