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Junior Cert revamp is a mistake

Parents are always concerned about their children’s educational progress.

It’s natural they’d be worried about an escalation of the ASTI dispute but there is something far more damaging, more permanent and more misguided being introduced next year. I refer, of course, to what is effectively the abolition of the Junior Cert.

I’m not anti-change and there are many cheap and effective changes that would improve the system. The Junior Cert will go from being standardised, fair and objective to being unfair, subjective and non-standardised. There will be as many standards as there are teachers when teachers will mark their own students.

Teachers have a duty to do the best for their students and that will include being generous with marks. There will be pressure from school boards, principals, parents and pupils. How can it be resisted, or why should it be resisted in school A when everyone knows that schools B, C and D are pushing up the grades?

When students are faced with a real exam at Leaving Cert there will be real pressure because no one will know what they are capable of. Inevitably, the Leaving Cert will be dumbed down because the acceptable level of failure, about 5%, will not increase. Third level institutions will have to fill seats and therefore accept the best of what’s available.

The minister says he is concerned about literacy, and so he should be, but it is ironic that he thinks getting rid of the Junior Cert will help. It is also ironic that the trend of self-expression at all costs has resulted in many not being able to express themselves coherently. Grammar isn’t some outdated punishment. It’s essential. Poor literacy could be solved in two years by increasing mechanics in Leaving Cert English from 10% to 25% and punishing poor presentation in all subjects.

The changes are being rolled out without any public debate because there are so many other matters of concern. The minister says it will cost €10m, so, short term, at least, he won’t even save money. Present and past students will have a sense of achievement in their Junior Cert because the new one won’t be worth the paper it will be written on.

Jim Cooney
Co Cork


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