I write to express my empathy with all Leaving Cert candidates now that this year’s Leaving Cert won’t go ahead. I also thought it might be interesting reflect on the Leaving Certificate education process in 21st-century Ireland by paraphrasing the words of 1916 leader Patrick H Pearse, who was executed 104 years ago this week.
Pearse was the headmaster of St. Enda’s, a ground breaking education experiment of its era. Pearse’s comments in "The Murder Machine", an essay on the school system in the early 20th century, ring true today. This crisis will bring the unrestrained gallop for CAO points, university and college places into much sharper focus than ever.
I think we should contemplate Padraig Pearse’s words: "One of the most terrible things about the Irish Education System in Ireland is its ruthlessness… it is cold and mechanical, like the ruthlessness of an immensely powerful engine. A machine vast, complicated… It grinds night and day; it obeys immutable and predetermined laws; it is as devoid of understanding, of sympathy, of imagination, as is any other piece of machinery that performs an appointed task. Into it is fed all raw human material in Ireland; it seizes upon it inexorably and rends and compresses and remoulds".
Why are we going to feed imaginary results into a faceless untried and tested machine, to be decoded into points for the CAO - to determine what happens next for our young adults? Surely we can do better than this?
Let me offer the Class of 2020 some hope, my Leaving Cert did not define me, and I don’t believe a Leaving Cert should define anybody. I didn’t have enough points in any way to attend university or college in late 1980s Ireland. I joined the 57,000 Irish emigrants who departed Ireland in 1987. An aptitude test afforded me the opportunity to pursue a nursing career in the U.K. Ongoing development courses have brought me to my current role.
My advice is simply that a Leaving Certificate doesn’t define anybody, it’s what one does after the Leaving cert that has the greater impact on the individual and society.
Assistant Professor in Intellectual Disability Nursing