Leaving Certificate results: Overhaul of third-level structure

THE Leaving Certificate results are out today and the Central Applications Office (CAO) will make its first offers of third level places next Monday. Over 47,000 Leaving Cert students had applied to the CAO this year.

Too much emphasis in secondary education is now about going on to college or university. The head of the State Examinations Commission warned earlier this year that too many students were making a wrong choice in taking higher level mathematics just because of the double points on offer.

The universities are contemplating a scheme whereby bonus points would be offered in certain subjects that would be relevant to the course for which a particular student has applied.

Unfortunately too many young people are essentially being forced to make career decisions before they really know what they wish to do with their lives.

Many are undoubtedly influenced by the ambitions of their parents. This may not be something for which those young people are really suited. Some of the students will take college courses because they have the required points. Instead they should be following their own interests, which should dictate the course they choose, rather than allowing the points race to dictate their future for them.

On later finding out in college that they have little interest in the particular course that they have chosen, these people tend to become very frustrated and frequently drop out.

This is a sad reflection not only on the waste of their time, but also on the fact that those people would effectively have denied a place to somebody who might have been more suitable. All of this is at a tremendous cost to society.

Prior to Irish independence in 1921, only 6% of Irish children even attended an intermediate school. Primary school was still the sole source of education for over 90% of the Irish people as late as 1940. The whole process was revolutionised by Donogh O’Malley’s announcement of the introduction of free secondary education 50 years ago next month.

Our third-level structure needs to be reformed to take account of those revolutionary changes. In Germany there is emphasis on providing apprenticeships.

An Apprenticeship Council was established in this country in 2014. It is aimed at the creation of “earn and learn” schemes across different sectors outside the current trades. Twenty-five new apprenticeship schemes are at various stages of development, in association with partner educator organisations. This includes areas such as insurance, travel, transport, software, and accountancy.

The Insurance Practitioner Apprenticeship being introduced next month should be welcomed. It is designed to attract new entrants to the insurance industry, and provide an apprentice with an opportunity to study towards a university level degree over three years while working for an insurance organisation.

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