Leaving Cert home economics: Some stumped over ‘ambiguous’ questions

Other students surprised to see iron rather than carbohydrates on paper, teacher says

Pupils at Beneavin De La Salle College, Finglas, await the start of their exams as this year’s Leaving Certificate examinations got under way in schools around the country on Wednesday. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

Pupils at Beneavin De La Salle College, Finglas, await the start of their exams as this year’s Leaving Certificate examinations got under way in schools around the country on Wednesday. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

 

A compulsory question on the higher-level home economics paper, which focused on how “health and wellbeing” and “responsible living” influence our food choices, has received a negative reaction from students. The question is worth a quarter of the overall grade.

“Students are usually given a table which they can write about,” said Margaret Kinsella, ASTI subject representative and a teacher at Bunclody Vocational School in Co Wexford.

“This year, they were given an infographic and they just weren’t expecting it. They were asked about health and wellbeing and then, separately, about responsible living. They found the concepts ambiguous and hard to separate between.”

Sandra Cleary, a home economics teacher at the Institute of Education in Dublin, said that weaker students might have been caught out.

“The information provided was quite limited, and rather than basing their answer on figures and percentages from a table, like they are normally required to do, the question was more open to interpretation,” she said.

Some students were surprised to see iron rather than carbohydrates appear on the paper, Ms Cleary said.

These include Irish Times Leaving Cert diarist Ava O’Shea of Castlecomer Community School in Co Kilkenny, who said that students had even made TikTok videos on carbohydrates appearing on the paper.

Normally, students do 10 out of 12 short questions but this year they only had to do 5 out of 14, while they only had to do one out of four long-answer questions and had the option of an additional elective in case they had not finished their elective coursework in school.

Varied

Ms Cleary said that, despite the concerns over question one, the additional choice made the paper far more manageable for students. “It was fair and generous with a nice, varied range of topics. There was quite a bit of repetition from previous exam papers, and students who were thorough with their study and had gone over past exam papers should be very pleased.

Ms Kinsella thought that a social studies question about division of childcare and working from home would have appealed to a lot of students, as it spoke to their experience of the pandemic over the past year.

“They were well prepared for a question on food safety, because teachers have been talking to students about outdoor eating and safely and healthily preparing food,” she said.

Ordinary level

The ordinary level paper, meanwhile, was generally good and not too difficult, Ms Kinsella said. “But a compulsory part of the elective, which looked at occasion wear, seemed a bit odd: who has been able to get dressed up for occasions over the past year? That said, there was a good question on eggs, which also appeared on the higher level paper. Other questions on pregnancy, menus, food, labelling and budgeting were all nicely laid out, and students had more time than in previous years.”

Try this at home:
Home Economics, higher level
42 per cent of people who are working from home said that ‘managing the boundary between work and home life was very difficult.’ (Irish Independent, 2020)

(i) Explain the importance of the distribution of work tasks and childcare responsibilities in families. (15 marks)

(ii) Discuss how improvements in the provision of education have impacted on family life. (15 marks)