Leaving Cert exam on cusp of change – for past 40 years
"The annual sitting of the Leaving Cert is a spectator sport for the rest of the country. It is an outlet for mainly adult hysteria"
Young people of Ireland: don’t listen when stupid older people tell you that this last month, this last year, this last six years in the secondary education system have been something that everybody has to go through. The annual sitting of the Leaving Cert is just a spectator sport for the rest of the country. It is an outlet for mainly adult hysteria. We also get to sigh and experience a wave of relief that we’ll never have to do it again – sorry about that.
This doesn’t mean the Leaving Cert was ever some important, traditional rite of passage for adolescents as they entered our complex and sophisticated culture. It was always useless. It was designed to identify, amongst others, candidates for steady jobs in the civil service and the banks. From a historical perspective that didn’t work out too well. Discuss.
The only thing that has changed over the decades, perhaps, is that parents are much more involved than they used to be, as they try and get their children over the social dividing line just as it is being drawn. Meanwhile adults in general are muttering in corners about how, if children can endure the stress of sitting the Leaving Cert, they can endure pretty much any examination in the future. This may well be true. At any event it seems to be the most positive thing any experienced grown up can say about the Leaving, that as an exercise in stress tolerance it is pretty well unbeatable. And the State exam system only costs us €60 million a year. Do you think this is good value? Give your reasons clearly.
It has always been said that the exam system in Ireland excludes many of the children that it does not suit, but that repetition does not change the fact that their options are still very limited. The Leaving also lets down many academically able children who could do much more than is asked of them. Both these groups of children suffer alienation and loss of confidence as a result. No wonder Irish children were recently shown to dislike school more than their European counterparts. It is a long time since anyone other than a politician touting for the placing of a foreign call centre here has praised our education system. Certainly parents don’t defend it.
In this way – convincing children to conform to a system that no one believes in, or even pretends to believe in – perhaps the Leaving Cert is good training after all.