Killing off the classics: ‘elite’ subjects fall from prominence

Classical studies, Latin and Greek are important but fewer students than ever are learning them. One teachers blames the Leaving Cert, which hasn’t been reviewed since the 1970s

Oscar McHale 6th year student in Stratford College Rathgar with his Classics teacher Delia Donohue. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons / The Irish Times

Oscar McHale 6th year student in Stratford College Rathgar with his Classics teacher Delia Donohue. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons / The Irish Times

“Ancient Rome is important. To ignore the Romans is not just to turn a blind eye to the distant past. Rome still helps to define the way we understand our world and think ourselves, from high theory to low comedy. After 2,000 years, it continues to underpin western culture and politics, what we write and how we see the world, and our place in it.”Mary Beard, SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome, 2015

How important are the classics? A very small number of Leaving Cert students sit the classical studies, Latin and ancient Greek exams. Latin, which is largely confined to a handful of fee-paying schools, enjoys one of the highest number of A and honours grades and lowest fail rates.

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