Minister warns against 'quick fixes' in education
Minister for Education Ruairi Quinn has warned against ‘quick fix’ changes to the education system but said incentivising Leaving Certificate students to do higher level maths by giving them extra points had worked “beyond anybody’s expectation”.
Speaking after almost 56,000 students received their exam results today, Mr Quinn said it had been “a good day for the Leaving Certificate”.
Asked if he was concerned that the additional 25 points awarded to students who took the higher level maths paper this year might skew the points for third level courses, Mr Quinn said the incentive had been designed to have a distorting effect.
But he said he would wait until next Monday to see what the points system produced. He said he would like to get consistent data over two or three years to see what the outcome was.
On whether he would consider similar incentivisation for subjects such as physics, chemistry or biology, Mr Quinn said everything would flow from getting numeracy and literacy right first.
The Minister said he was awaiting a report from the heads of the third level institutions, who control the points system, to see what changes they proposed. He noted said the number of courses had increased by 300 per cent over the last 10 to 15 years and that would be addressed.
“That will deal with a better transfer from second level to third level.”
He said there would be changes to the Junior Cert for students entering the system from September 2014. They would sit their exams in 2017, three years later. Changes would include reducing the number of subjects taken by students.
“You can’t push it any faster and I think if you tried to you’d make a mess of it,” he said, adding that instant curriculum changes in Britain had been “counterproductive”.
Mr Quinn said changes to the Leaving Certificate and the “bridge” through to third level was “more complex”, however.
He said we needed to produce pupils “who are able to think for themselves rather than remember something that was written out and read by them”.
“That’s a cultural change and modern technology will help in relation to that.”
“We are moving cautiously and slowly because I want the changes to be effective, to be the right kind of change that this country needs,” Mr Quinn said.
“I want the stakeholders within the education system, the principals and the boards of management and the teachers themselves to feel that yes, this is the way to go.”
“Too much experimentation with educational change, as we’ve seen across the water is a warning not to go for the ‘quick fix’ type of solution simply because it fits within the electoral or political cycle.”
In a reversal of recent trends, the number failing maths in the Leaving Certificate has fallen dramatically, while record numbers opted to take the subject at higher level.