Students to complete Leaving Cert exams online

Bruton says introduction of computer science will help pupils prepare for ‘digital revolution’

It’s the future: Hundreds of fifth-year students across 40 schools will be the first to take on computer science from next September. File photograph: Getty Images

It’s the future: Hundreds of fifth-year students across 40 schools will be the first to take on computer science from next September. File photograph: Getty Images

 

Leaving Cert students over the coming years will complete more of their exams online under plans to modernise the education system.

Computer science, which is being introduced as a new subject from this September, is set to be the first exam which will be completed fully on computer.

Minister for Education Richard Bruton said he expected this will be the first of many subjects where exams will take place online.

“I’d say that is the direction we are heading. We want to ensure that digital technology transforms our education system and that we utilise the power of digital technology to make education as good as it can be,” he said.

“The ambition is to be the best in Europe within a decade. We are looking very clearly at the extent to which digital technology can transform assessment methods as well.

“The Leaving Certificate is being examined more generally at the moment. Modernisation of assessment methods and making them more flexible in the way they are delivered is part of that.”

40 schools

Hundreds of fifth-year students across 40 schools will be the first to take on computer science from next September.

Students will be required to complete all of their course work and final exams using laptops or computers, with the first Leaving Cert computer science exam set to take place in June 2020.

The subject is due to be made available to all schools who wish to teach it from 2020 onwards.

Announcing details of the new subject, Mr Bruton said it was an exciting time for education in Ireland.

“The introduction of this new subject will teach our young people flexible, solution-orientated thinking.

“It will teach them to be creative, adaptable learners. It will increase the number of students taking up computing and Stem (science, technology, engineering and maths) courses and apprenticeships after school, leading to a highly-skilled workforce.

“ I’m delighted we were able to bring the introduction of this subject forward to this year as I think it is an important and timely addition to our education system.”

Challenges

The subject will require students to focus on how programming and computational thinking can be applied to the solution of problems, and how computing technology impacts the world around us.

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 first phase of the roll-out of computer science, for example, 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.

When asked if he had concerns over a “digital divide” opening up between schools who have access to high-grade computers and those who don’t, Mr Bruton said he did not.

He said supports will be given to schools and major investment in IT equipment for schools was underway.

“We have a significant programme of investment in digital hardware - €210 million - which we’re investing over the coming years, so we have assets set aside to support schools,” he said.

“We see this as something we want to see available in as many schools as possible.”

The 40 schools where computer science will be available as a subject from next September include:

Cavan (Breifne College; St Aidan’s Comprehensive School)

Clare (Ennistymon Vocational School)

Cork (Christ King Girls Secondary School; Coláiste an Chraoibhin; Coláiste Choilm; Gaelcholáiste Mhuire AG; Mayfield Community School ; Sacred Heart Secondary School)

Dublin (Adamstown Community College; Coláiste Bríde; Coláiste Phadraig; Coláiste Pobail Setanta; Dominican College Sion Hill; Le Chéile Secondary School ; Loreto College Swords; Luttrellstown Community College; Mount Temple Comprehensive; St Joseph’s Secondary School; St. Finian’s Community College; Stratford College; Terenure College)

Donegal (Abbey Vocational School ; Saint Eunan’s College)

Galway (St Brigid’s Mercy Secondary School)

Kerry (Coláiste na Ríochta)

Kildare (Clongowes Wood College)

Limerick ( Coláiste Chiaráin)

Louth (Bush Post Primary; St Vincent’s Secondary School)

Mayo (Rice College)

Monaghan (Castleblaney College)

Tipperary (Presentation Secondary school )

Waterford (Mount Sion CBS)

Westmeath (Coláiste Mhuire; Moate Community School)

Wexford (Creagh College; St Mary’s CBS)