Bonus points for Irish? That's bogus


TO BE HONEST: An unheard voice in education

A parent writes:Leaving Cert students who do their exams through Irish get grade boosts that add up to extra CAO points. This has been the case for so long it has been overlooked as a very serious inequality in our system.

The Leaving Cert is supposed to be a “level playing field”. That’s the phrase that supporters of this exam love to use.

Bonus points for Irish queer the pitch.

Take two students, equally able, going for the same course in university. The student from the Irish language school has a better chance of getting that course, even if Irish is not required to study it. It doesn’t make academic sense at all.

If, for example, a student gets 65 per cent in history, he will be awarded an extra 10 per cent of that mark because he did the exam in Irish. That will push him from a C to a B grade. Any student who gets a mark of 75 per cent or less in a range of subjects gets this 10 per cent boost.

I accept that completing an exam such as history through the Irish language is challenging, but not for a child that has had the benefit of 14 years of Irish language education. This option is just not available to the majority of students in the country. In my own locality there is one gaelscoil (Irish language primary school) and it is oversubscribed. The nearest gaelcholáiste (Irish language post-primary school) is miles away.

I absolutely support the right of parents to choose an all-Irish education for their children. I also realise that the bonus system is designed to encourage more parents to choose Irish language schooling. As we have seen, however, demand exceeds supply so the interest is being stoked by the bonus points system without a corresponding increase in provision.

Meanwhile, awarding bonus points for Irish continues to discriminate against those outside this limited Irish language school system. When a large pool of students are going for a small number of high point courses in university, is it really fair that those whose parents had access to a gaelscoil and gaelcholáiste should find themselves at such an advantage?

Bonus points for maths are open to all with the ability – there’s scarcely a school in the country that doesn’t offer higher level maths. However, a minority of students have a realistic chance of completing the Leaving Cert through Irish, regardless of ability.

Supporters of the Leaving Cert always say that, blunt as it may be, at least it’s fair. This is not fair.

This column is designed to give a voice to those within the education system who wish to speak out anonymously. Contributions are welcome at