Third-level heads asked to put forward proposals on reform


THE DEPARTMENT of Education is seeking proposals on reform of the CAO system from the seven university presidents and the heads of the institutes of technology.

In a related development, former University College Cork academic Prof Áine Hyland is to prepare a report on admission procedures to college and the transition from second to third level.

The moves come as Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn pushes ahead with his reform programme. The college heads have been asked to propose various options for change to the CAO system by early September.

These proposals will be examined at a major conference on “the interaction between second and third level” scheduled for late September.

Prof Hyland, former vice president of UCC, has been commissioned to prepare a detailed report for this conference by the Higher Education Authority (HEA) and the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA).

Prof Hyland was a member of the 1999 Points Commission, the last major review of entry to higher education.

Radical changes to college admission is seen as a key part of Mr Quinn’s reform programme which will also see a recasting of the Junior Cert. The NCCA will meet today to review progress on its proposals to reform the exam. Final proposals are expected to be presented to the Minister in late June. Mr Quinn would like to roll out the Junior Cert changes next year.

While reform of the Leaving Cert and the points system is certain to take longer, Mr Quinn wants to push ahead quickly.

Pressure to reform the Leaving Cert has been growing amid complaints from universities and employers about how some students are struggling with independent learning at third level.

Tom Boland, the chief executive of the HEA, has said many “spoon-fed” Leaving Certificate students, used to rote learning in school, come to college without the necessary skills.

He says the emphasis which the exam places on rote learning is increasingly out of kilter with modern needs.

NCCA proposals on the Junior Cert draw heavily on the exam system in Scotland.