Points system not seen as promoting equal chances by over half of Leaving students

 

Over half of Leaving Certificate students believe the points system is unfair, and more than threequarters think it should allow for some form of continuous assessment, Points Commission researchers have found.

The students also want points awarded for subjects not included - such as sport and drama - and for extra-curricular activities.

The innovative piece of research was carried out by transition year students in 64 schools, under the supervision of Ms Eilis Humphreys and Mr Gerry Jeffers of the Department of Education's Transition Year Support Team.

They surveyed attitudes to the points system among 3,244 of their fellow-students doing the Leaving Certificate. Over 80 per cent of the students who responded came from voluntary secondary schools.

They found that 54 per cent of the students doing the exam disagreed with the proposition that the points system is "fair - all students have equal chances of getting a place in a third-level college through this system".

Sixty four per cent of them thought the points system did not reward all students equally - 75 per cent believed it rewarded people with a good memory, while 78 per cent of the students felt the system should "allow for some continuous assessment".

Eighty four per cent wanted it to "recognise talents such as sport, music, debating and acting". Eighty five per cent believed it should "give extra points for subjects relevant to the courses being applied for".

A massive 89 per cent said the system "should recognise that certain personal qualities (e.g. manner) are needed for some jobs, e.g. jobs in medicine, teaching and social work. Only 20 per cent thought the system developed good teaching.

Most students felt the points system had a negative effect on family life, school life and social life.

The research co-ordinators noted that over 56 per cent of respondents had taken "grinds" during the last two years. "This high figure raises very fundamental questions as to how students and their parents perceive the work of schools, particularly in fifth or sixth year," they write.

They also noted that the survey findings highlighted a "real clash of values between what the transition year promotes and what the points system seems to value.

"For example, transition year promotes maturity, independent research and learning, exploration of ideas, initiative, teamwork, skills development, the ability to make judgments about their own work and the extension of the learning environment beyond the classroom.

"It is not always clear how the Leaving Certificate and the points system build on these educational experiences. The emphasis seems to be on individual competitiveness, knowledge retention and recall."