Calls for reform of Junior Cert syllabus


MORE THAN 59,000 students received their Junior Certificate results yesterday, with the results overall in line with previous years.

Nineteen pupils achieved 12 As in the exam, with 108 getting 11 As and another 259 getting 10 A grades. The numbers of those sitting the exam were up by 3.4 per cent.

“The Junior Cert is a fair, impartial and transparent exam which helps young people to learn about setting and reaching educational goals in their lives,” said Gerry Breslin, president of teachers union the ASTI.

“It is seen as a valuable measurement of aptitude by students, teachers, and parents in planning for the Leaving Cert and beyond.”

The ASTI president said that while the union favoured reform of the Junior Cert, such reform must be about improving the learning experiences of all students while ensuring that it continued to provide a reliable and fair statement for all students regardless of family background, socio-economic status and other factors.

“It would be folly to subject the Junior Cert exam to a cost-saving exercise which would lower its status and reputation and increase social inequities,” Mr Breslin added. “This would cause irreparable damage to young people’s experience of the exams system.”

Youth Work Ireland called for more haste in plans to replace the Junior Cert with a radical new programme as previously announced by the Minister for Education. The youth group, whose 22 members run programmes for early school-leavers, said the overly academic nature of the exam was in need of urgent attention and could serve as a model for educational reform.

“These reforms are a long time coming and must serve as a motivation to examine the senior cycle which plays such a dominant role in young people’s lives,” said Michael McLoughlin of Youth Work Ireland.

“It is now crucial to move into a period of implementation as everybody knows exactly what needs to be done and the appropriate resources will have to be found to ensure this is not a false dawn.

“Newer and more flexible methods are commonplace now in industry and new forms of team working are the hallmark of the much-vaunted ‘smart economy’ and our education system has to reflect these changes,” Mr McLoughlin added.

Labour TD and vice-chair of the Oireachtas jobs, social protection and education committee Aodhán Ó Ríordáin said: “The time has come for the Junior Certificate to be updated. The National Council for Curriculum and Assessment published some proposals to radically reform this exam. These included proposals for more short-term courses and for 40 per cent of the final grade to be awarded through continuous assessment.

“As it stands, students spend three years working towards a set of exams where the final result for each subject is assessed on the basis of a one-, two- or three-hour exam,” he added. “This can put too much strain on our young people and encourages rote learning instead of engagement. It does not allow people to properly develop a skill set fit for purpose.”