Planet Leaving Cert

World Cup bonus for class of 2014

Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

Sat, Jun 7, 2014, 14:16

Yes, we’ve a lot of sympathy for those sitting the Leaving Cert but this year’s crop have a distinct advantage over previous candidates in a World Cup year.

The last two Fifa World Cups in South Africa and Germany began on Day Three of the Leaving Cert when students had only got English and a couple of other papers under their belt.

This year, that most distracting of international sporting events kicks off on Day Seven of the Leaving Cert timetable, ensuring that by the time host Brazil and Croatia take to the pitch (at 9 pm next Thursday) many students will be all but done.

You think it makes no difference? A glance at the statistics indicates otherwise, especially for boys. Between 2009 and 2010, the proportion of boys who got an A in maths dropped from 16.4 per cent to 16.1 per cent, and in Irish from 11.5 per cent to 9.2 per cent. In contrast, there was a marginal improvement in English results, which was sat before the tournament kicked off.

An identical trend occurred between 2005 and 2006 when the proportion of As in maths fell from 16.7 per cent to 15 per cent, and in in Irish from 11 per cent to 10.1 per cent. Again, results in English held up, with the proportion of As rising marginally from 8.3 per cent to 8.6 per cent.

The pattern was more mixed for girls but the proportion of As among them also dropped slightly for the core subjects in both World Cup years.

More research is required but perhaps the SEC needs to get in touch with Russia and Qatar about the timetabling for World Cups 2018 and 2022 respectively. No football-mad student should be disadvantaged.

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Ciarán the new face of maths

Project Maths has created its first virtual celebrity. Finicky father Ciarán who prepares food for his baby using cooled boiled water featured prominently in the higher level paper, and in students’ port-mortems.

“Why didn’t Ciarán just put the bottle in the microwave?” tweeted Riona Ni Cuilinn. “Ok so no financial maths but it’s fine we now know how Ciarán prepares food for his baby,” sighed @jackodwyer7.

It was a question right off the Project Maths play-sheet, says teacher Tony McGennis of St Laurence College Loughlinstown, Dublin. “You can’t get more practical than a dad cooling water” but he rejects the suggestion that it indicates a dumbing down of the course. Could the same be said at ordinary level?

McGennis described the first questions as “quite easy - basically multiplication and adding”, and other teachers agreed it was “very student friendly”. The “dumbing down” debate will continue.

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Quote of the day:

“In years to come my grandchildren will pause on June 6th and think ‘this is when Grandad started his Leaving Cert’”- comedian Dara O’Briain on Twitter.

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Cruel questions:

Social historians are always looking out for trendy questions in the Leaving Cert, and this year provided austerity-era challenges on household budgeting while on the dole (Home Economics) and analysing unemployment rates in Ireland and the EU (Geography).

If the subject matter seemed a little cruel it was nothing compared to monthly climate graph on the geography ordinary level paper, reminding students what they knew already: outside the sun is shining.

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Follow the Leaving Cert in The Irish Times, online at irishtimes.com and on Twitter @ExamWatch

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