Leaving Cert students in favour of exam reform, study finds

Majority of final years want continuous assessment but Junior Certs less certain

Minister for Education Jan O’Sullivan. A study has found that the majority of Leaving Certs students back the Minister’s plans for exam reforms. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

Minister for Education Jan O’Sullivan. A study has found that the majority of Leaving Certs students back the Minister’s plans for exam reforms. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

 

Leaving Cert students are keener on the idea of school-based assessment than their Junior Cert counterparts, according to a survey of teenagers who are preparing for State exams.

Asked whether they would prefer continuous assessment, graded by their teachers, in place of the current external examination system, 73 per cent of Leaving Cert students responded in the affirmative.

This figure was in contrast to the 45 per cent of respondents in their Junior Cert year who were in favour of such a change, and the 48 per cent of students in first and second year.

The survey of more than 500 teenagers was carried out by Student Enrichment Services (SES), a company which runs study skills programmes.

The survey population was comprised of course participants, and therefore not nationally representative.

However, the study may be indicative of broader concerns about exam pressure and “teaching to the test” at both Junior Cert and Leaving Cert level.

The Irish Second-Level Students’ Union, the representative body of student councils, has backed Minister for Education Jan O’Sullivan’s plan to introduce school-based assessment as part of a reformed junior cycle.

But secondary teachers unions are opposed to the move, claiming parents and students overwhelmingly wish to retain the integrity of the current process.

Tablets in school

The SES survey for 2014/15 also found mixed views on the use of tablets in schools. While a majority of students said they would like tablets to be used in schools, 52 per cent of students who had such access said they interfered with their studies.

Of those who used tablets currently in school, 73 per cent said they still preferred studying from a textbook when given a choice between the two.

“Some students even said that parents bought them a textbook as well, which they kept for studying at home,” SES noted.

“Typical students’ comments were: ‘I prefer the feel of a textbook’; ‘I like using an iPad but I think you study better from a textbook’.”

Among Leaving Cert students, nearly 70 per cent said they planned to have regular grinds this year, with the average hourly rate for private tuition said to range from €45 to €65.

Maths was the subject most likely to attract extra tuition, while Leaving Cert students named English as their favourite subject. History was named as the favourite subject of Junior Cert students.