Review of Leaving and Junior Cert promised


EDUCATION:THE PROGRAMME for government has backed away from controversial Fine Gael policies on the Irish language and third-level fees – but it is promising a review of both the Leaving and Junior Cert exams.

While Fine Gael planned to abolish Irish as a compulsory Leaving Cert subject, the programme says it will only “consider the question of whether Irish should be optional for Leaving Cert’’ after implementing steps to improve the quality and effectiveness of Irish teaching in schools.

The Fine Gael plan to introduce a graduate tax for students is also watered down. Instead, the programme promises to introduce a funding system which will provide colleges with reliable funding without impeding access for poorer students.

Surprisingly, the programme opts for a full review of the recent Hunt Report on third level (which took two years to prepare) and the earlier 2004 OECD review of higher education in Ireland.

The programme also promises an audit of higher degree (level 8) qualifications and the learning outcomes for graduates of these courses. The programme appears more radical on the issue of information for parents on schools.

A system of self-evaluation will be introduced, requiring all schools to evaluate their own performance year-on-year and to publish information across a wide range of criteria. It says parents should have access to more information when choosing a school, although it does not specify whether this should include Leaving Cert results.

The programme acknowledges widespread criticisms that the Leaving and Junior Cert exams – with their focus on rote learning – are no longer fit for purpose.

On school patronage, the programme backs a new forum on patronage and pluralism in the primary sector, which will sit for one year. The programme signals that the multi-denominational group Educate Together will be recognised as a second level patron.