To Be Honest – A science teacher writes
Junior Cert science is too easy – on every level
I am a science and biology teacher and I think the current Junior Cert science curriculum does not have enough scientific information. It is too basic, indeed the current higher level should be ordinary level.
The experimental aspect of the course takes far too much of the teacher’s time and not enough of the student’s. Teachers have to pull and drag material from them, which dominates Christmas to Easter. Some teachers take the easy option, just ticking the 30 boxes to get the students their 10 per cent, deserved or not. Others either do the project (worth 25 per cent) for their students or give extra time to complete it.
After all, projects remain in the school until June, so why bother finishing by the April deadline? The system is unfair for honest teachers, or those who try to instil deadline discipline in students.
I supervised this year in our average school, with a good mix of ability in students. They behaved very well in their exam, proving that when necessary and expected, teenagers can be diligent and hardworking. They are not students who just finish up quickly and leave the exam.
Yet with the two-hour science exam, all ordinary level students finished within 35 minutes. After 20 minutes checking scripts they were all gone within the hour. Is this a “testing” exam? At that point, higher-level students were on the last question and most had left by 90 minutes. One of the students remarked as he left, “This is my favourite subject. That exam was rubbish.”
Extra bits could be added to the exam. The paper of short answer questions does not permit good students to show their abilities; it could easily include three experiments for ordinary level students to write up, and six for higher level. This might increase the time spent in the exam and give the science exam some respect (it is viewed as an easy exam). Students wrote for twice as long in CSPE exams and three times longer in religion, two other subjects with course work projects.
The paper layout is also a disadvantage for good students, or those with large handwriting. Students cannot show what they know because the answer spaces are tiny, without room even for grammatically-correct answers. Boxes for the few diagrams they are asked to draw are also tiny, with no space for detail or labels.
In a subject such as technical graphics, students are expected to and capable of drawing beautifully accurate, large and neat pencil drawings but in science any pen-drawn, messy, tiny “diagram” is accepted. The question paper should be separate from the answer booklet.
Students are not asked to draw the diagrams they are supposed to know in biology.