Computer science to be first Leaving Cert subject where exam completed online

End of the written exam? Experts say other subjects are set to follow the same route

Fifth-year students across 40 schools are due to begin learning the subject next year, with the first Leaving Cert exam in computer science set to take place in June 2019. Photograph: iStock

Fifth-year students across 40 schools are due to begin learning the subject next year, with the first Leaving Cert exam in computer science set to take place in June 2019. Photograph: iStock

 

Are the days of the written Leaving Cert exams coming to an end? A new computer science course, due to begin next year, will be the first subject where pupils will complete their final exams online.

The State’s advisory body on the school curriculum has finalised the draft specification for computer science which will see students complete all of their course work and final exam using laptops or computers.

If successful, experts say it is likely that many other subjects will follow the same route over the coming years.

“This is long overdue and it’s the way to go,” said Mary Cleary, deputy chief executive of the Irish Computer Society.

“Students are increasingly presenting their course work electronically and completing assignments online, yet they are being told to complete their exams on paper, in hand-written form.”

Fifth-year students across 40 schools are due to begin learning the subject next year, with the first Leaving Cert exam in computer science set to take place in June 2019.

It is due to be made available to all schools across the State from September 2020 onwards.

Outdated computers

The move to completing exams online is set to pose major challenges for schools, especially those who say they are struggling with outdated computers.

All participating schools in the pilot phase have been selected on the basis that they have the equipment or infrastructure to allow students complete their exams.

This includes laptops with at least a 1GHz processor for each student with access to 100Mbit/s broadband,

A spokeswoman for the Department of Education said it was “fully committed to supporting the rollout of this new Leaving Cert subject”, adding that support will be available to all schools who offer it.

The course will include a project , such as building an app, which will be submitted online and will account for 30 per cent of marks.

The final exam, which will be completed on a computer, will account for 70 per cent of marks.

It is likely this will be completed online using a special programme that will allow for students’ work to be automatically saved in case of any technological problems.

The prospect of large numbers students completing their Leaving Cert online is likely to raise concerns in some quarters over what safeguards are in place to protect against hacking and data theft.

Ms Cleary said online assessments have been used in other jurisdictions successfully and without incident.

Approval

A draft of the new subject specification was agreed by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment in recent days and is due to be formally submitted for approval to Minister for Education Richard Bruton next month.

The State Examinations Commission, which will be responsible for organising assessments, it had experience of using computers in exam situations.

It provides for students with additional needs to complete work on computers, while some elements of the Leaving Cert Applied may also be completed using laptops.

In the UK, computer science has become the fastest growing course at GCSE level since it was introduced in recent years, with almost half of schools now providing the subject.