Google welcomes review of college's 'grade inflation'


A REVIEW of “grade inflation” in schools and colleges, requested by Minister for Education Batt O’Keeffe, has been welcomed by US multinational Google.

However, the union representing secondary teachers, the ASTI, has rejected any suggestion that there is a “dumbing down” of standards at Leaving Cert level.

Mr O’Keeffe has established a review of grade inflation across third level colleges and in the Leaving Cert after concerns about the quality of Irish graduates were raised during a recent meeting with executives from Google, Intel and other major US firms.

Referring to those concerns Mr O’Keeffe said “we have to respond to the thinking of people who employ 200,000 people in this country.’’

Preliminary results of the reviews he has put in place will be available later this week.

The Minister yesterday expressed concern about grade inflation in some third-level colleges. He also indicated that some US employers were not satisfied with the quality emerging from some colleges – but he declined to identify them.

In education circles , it is widely assumed the Minister is referring to some institutes of technology where the number of first class honours degrees has increased dramatically in the past decade.

On RTÉ’s News at One , the Minister stressed he was not engaged in a witch-hunt.

His focus was on challenging colleges to go to the next level. He described talks with the multinational sector as a “no holds barred” meeting.

Mr O’Keeffe said there had been a serious increase in grades over the past 10 years and there was also a general perception that there was quite a significant increase in the number of first class honours qualifications being awarded by the third-level sector.

He said he was anxious to ensure quality and consistency and he was determined to address what he described as any distortions or deficiencies in the short term.

John Herlihy, Google Ireland general manager and vice president, global ad operations, said “Ireland’s education system has been a critical attraction for US investment in Ireland and the key to delivering the smart economy.

“We found the Minister very open to hearing the comments of industry. We want people who can understand their core subjects and solve problems,” he said.

Mr Herlihy said he was “thrilled” that the review of grades in the Leaving Certificate and university degrees was being conducted.

“The key thing is that it will confirm the integrity of the underlying system,” he said.

“Google and all the other multinationals are here for the calibre of the education system and it is essential that there be total integrity in relation to that.”

But Association of Secondary Teachers in Ireland general secretary, John White said accusations of “dumbing-down” are unsubstantiated and unfair to those young people who work hard to reach their potential.

“Knee-jerk reactions to improvements in Leaving Certificate results must be avoided. A key factor behind grade improvement in the Leaving Certificate is the availability of examination marking schemes in recent years. This has resulted in increased focus by students and their teachers on optimising performance in examinations.

“In addition, the second-level curriculum has been broadened to facilitate all kinds of interests and abilities which means students can choose more subjects which they find interesting. Teaching has changed and syllabi have been modernised.”

Fine Gael education spokesman Brian Hayes called on the Minister to publish the preliminary findings as soon as possible.