Quinn urges debate on CAO points


Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn says he has an "open mind '' about changes to the CAO points system for college admission.

Speaking a today's unveiling of a new report on college entry, the Minister called for a public debate on the transition by students from Leaving Cert to third level.

The new report, from former UCD vice president Prof Áine Hyland, backs a radical transformation of the points system. Prof Hyland's paper lists a range of possible new options. These include a lottery for all third level courses.

She also proposes a new, more targeted system that would seek to build a stronger link between the students' skill sets and their college option.

Prof Hyland said she favoured this "weighted lottery '' system whereby, for example, students with strong science grades in the Leaving Cert would gain preferential access to science courses at third level.

Prof Hyland also said third level institutes should set realistic minimum requirements for first year courses.

The Minister said he was concerned about the negative impact of the points system on the learning experience at second level. Mr Quinn also expressed concern about the readiness of new entrants going into higher education.

"In short, my concern is that any benefits of future second level curriculum reform will be undermined if we do not also address the direct question of the demands and pressures placed on both teachers and students by the current points system. ''

Mr Quinn said there had been criticism from within the higher education sector of the capacity of students from second level to meet the learning demands of higher education . These related to their capacity to think independently and creatively.

"The charge has been that the Leaving Certificate places performance pressures on students that promotes 'rote learning' and a narrow emphasis on the terminal examinations themselves at the expense of broader learning opportunities through the senior cycle.''

Ms Hyland 's paper will be discussed at a specially convened conference later this month. The conference is being organised by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment and the Higher Education Authority.

This morning, Mr Quinn stressed the issues involved in the debate do not lend themselves to simple solutions. "They are complex and sensitive in nature. But we should be prepared to air them and discuss them. I want this to be a very public debate because any changes that might ultimately be proposed will need to enjoy public confidence and will need to be based on a degree of broad consensus.''