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Leaving Cert reform must happen post-Covid – Bruton

20th April 2021 - Richard Bruton TD

As we exit the Covid pandemic, we have a unique opportunity to learn from the stress suffered by school leavers and implement rapid change in the Senior Cycle, a Fine Gael TD has said.


Chairperson of the Fine Gael Parliamentary Party, Richard Bruton, said: “The experience of predicted grades can give us confidence that reforms will deliver big improvements.


“The Irish system’s emphasis on memory-based exams has passed its “sell by” date. It is cast from the design of the industrial era with its uniform production line thinking. It traps teaching and learning in a narrow straight jacket.”


Deputy Bruton continued: “As the OECD experts have recently observed, it will lead us to fall into a second class in the way we prepare our new generation. It is far too rigid and narrow for the ambitions of that generation, when a premium will be placed on adaptability and innovation, not the reproduction of recooked information.


“Reform of the Leaving Cert must not be seen as an industrial relations issue, as has happened too often in the past. The only test should be the best interests of our emerging generation of students.


“To achieve this, there must be structured engagement with students, presenting them with key options, so they can be the leading influence on the direction of reforms.


“Specifically, student input should be sought on:


  • Whether the traditional exam should be reduced to 50% of the award
  • Whether open book exams should be considered for some elements
  • How project work within the school or outside should be evaluated
  • What sort of new portfolios of experience and achievement should be recognised in the award.”


Deputy Bruton continued: “Reform cannot stop with the Leaving Certificate itself. To complement these changes there must be a corresponding set of changes in the admission policies for degrees and for apprenticeship options.


“There should be far more common entry levels to cover a range of degrees, leaving the specialisation to specific qualifications to be decided within college, not by a high-pressure points race divorced from the lived experience of the subject


“The design of pathways to apprenticeships should have equal esteem, and a common admission process. While it cannot be the same as college admission because it is an employment contract offered by an employer, but much can be done to facilitate the availability of people with good aptitude for prospective employers. I welcome the plans in this area unveiled yesterday by my colleague Minister Simon Harris.


“Second chance entry for qualifications at Leaving Cert, College or Apprenticeship should be explicitly accommodated in the design of these new exams and admission arrangements. The reality for most people is that they will need to make changes during their working life, the Education and Training system must adapt to reflect that need,” Deputy Bruton concluded.



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