Parents will 'hand over money' to teachers in hope of better grades


IRISH PARENTS will end up offering backhanders to teachers in the hope of getting better grades for their children if teachers are required to assess their own students in State exams, the annual Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland conference has been told.

The National Council for Curriculum and Assessment has proposed curricular and assessment changes in the Junior Certificate examination which would include assessment of students by teachers that could account for 40 per cent of the overall Junior Cert grade.

Speaking on a motion opposing the measure, delegate Agnes Keane of Dublin South branch said if they felt they could influence the exam outcomes of children, “parents will be handing out the money to anyone who will be willing to take it at any time in the future”.

Teachers in fee-paying schools would come under particular pressure, “where the clout of parents is considerably greater than in non-fee-paying schools”, said Dermot Brennan of Carbery, Cork.

The union has a long-standing policy opposing the assessment by teachers of their own students for certification purposes. The policy is expected to be a major stumbling block to Junior Cert reform.

“Our position on assessment remains unequivocal,” union president Brendan Broderick told delegates this week.

“The present system of assessment, for certification purposes, is perceived by students, parents, employers and others to be totally objective and impartial.”

Mr Broderick warned teaching and assessment were “culture-bound” activities, and that Ireland had a “clientist” rather than a rules-based culture.

“Pressure from parents directly or indirectly through school management, or pressure emanating from competition between local schools for students, could also lead to the distortion of results,” he said.

Such an assessment system, he warned, would eventually lead to legal accountability and school resources being used up on appeals.

Delegate Phillip Irwin said the only thing that had saved the education system from the kind of corruption evident in the church and the State was the external assessment system.

Enda McCarthy of Fingal branch suggested the changes were designed to bring the Irish education system into line with the prevailing culture of “the nod and wink, backhanders, corrupt politicians and developers”.

“This is the Ireland that the Mahon tribunal so successfully opposed. Do not bring in an assessment system that would reflect that Ireland.”

Mr Broderick suggested an online assessment system could present a viable alternative.

“Time is on our side on this issue and the technology already exists,” he said.