Junior Cert history ‘under threat’, teachers say

French students in the hall until the last minute

Jack Lynch: reference to his  speech on Northern Ireland

Jack Lynch: reference to his speech on Northern Ireland

Thu, Jun 13, 2013, 00:00

Junior Cert students took a history paper yesterday but the subject is threatened by planned reforms of the Junior Cert programme, say teachers.

The History Teachers Association appeared before the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Education to lobby for the retention of history as a core subject at Junior Cert level.

History is one of 21 subjects available to schools for inclusion in the new Junior Cert programme, but only Irish, English and mathematics will be have mandatory status.

History teachers argue that fewer schools will offer the subject, which will affect the numbers taking history at higher level.

Yesterday’s higher paper offered a “great choice of questions”, said Dermot Lucey of Ballincollig Community School. “The language was well pitched. Students enjoyed questions on the Spanish Inquisition and on Jack Lynch’s famous speech about Northern Ireland.”

The ordinary level paper was described as “stimulating” with engaging images of jousters from the Bayeux Tapestry and the iconic “We Want You” US military recruitment poster.

Fintan O’Mahony, ASTI subject representative for history, said he hoped the department would reconsider the role of history in the new Junior Cert cycle. “If history is only offered as a short course here and there the numbers will drop and Leaving Cert history will be affected. We’ve built the numbers back up since the subject was reformed in 2006, and it’s now the fifth most popular elective, and one that students really enjoy.”

Yesterday’s Junior Cert French exams were fair, accessible, and properly pitched, according to teachers and students.

Máire Ní Chiarba, the ASTI subject representative, said the higher level paper was generally well received, but that most students stayed in the exam hall until the last minute.

However, a question requiring students to write a note to their teacher, explaining why they had not done their homework, was “quite prescriptive, with a heavy emphasis on formality”.

The reading comprehension featured topics including questions on the zodiac and personality traits, a section on firemen, and a reading comprehension about a cat who lived in a Parisian hotel.

Natasha Lynch, director of Essential French in Cork, said students were challenged by a very specific set of instructions in writing a letter about moving house and life in their new area.

Ms Ní Chiarba said the ordinary level paper, which is taken by some 30 per cent of students, was fair.