Trinity provost says CAO system flawed


THE COLLEGE admission system gives an undue reward to rote learning in the Leaving Cert, frequently delivering the wrong student to the wrong course, according to the provost of Trinity College Dublin, Dr Patrick Prendergast.

Addressing a major conference on undergraduate admissions yesterday, he said the system “doesn’t take into account significant individuality, nor does it allow for the fact that different universities seek different attributes from students”.

Dr Prendergast identified three major problems with the current system based on points secured in the Leaving Cert: the failure to inspire some students from rote learning to critical thinking; the right student is not always matched to the right course, and the fact that colleges are missing out on students who could thrive but whose abilities are not captured by a points total.

The system, he said, also gave an undue priority to student who were good rote learners in the Leaving Cert exam.

“Now I don’t want to be pejorative here – memory, of course, is crucial to intellect. But in university students need other skills, so a lot of time is spent in the first year inspiring students with the new approach to learning.

“So I’m not against rote-learning per se; even in the internet age, there is still no substitute for carrying knowledge in your head. But it’s only one aspect of learning, so it shouldn’t be given so much emphasis.”

Dr Prendergast said the education system needed to provide other access routes for students whose potential was not captured by the Leaving Cert, but it had done nothing fundamental about university admissions for decades,

He acknowledged the current points system had merits, chiefly its transparency in a small country where personal and family networks were so important.