The Irish Times view on The Leaving Cert: How to fix it
In whatever changes we now make to its administration we need to maintain that fairness
The High Court judgment in the Rebecca Carter case has brought into sharp relief a number of fundamental flaws in how we now administer the Leaving Cert. The exam itself is still, after 92 years, a fair system in which each student can anonymously demonstrate their ability in their chosen subjects. In whatever changes we now make to its administration we need to maintain that fairness, in which one’s family connections play no part in the assessment of performance.
The exam is currently held over 13 weekdays from the first Wednesday in June until the third Friday. In 2018 the State Examinations Commission (SEC) examined Politics & Society and placed it alongside Design & Communication Graphics, forcing students taking both subjects to sit exams until close to 9pm. For some students this entailed sitting three papers in one day.
Teachers are abandoning the correction of exam scripts due to the much reduced final sum they end up earning, due to cuts introduced after the crash. The SEC is now recruiting correctors from among trainee teachers and graduates of subjects who are not teachers to supplement the diminishing numbers of experienced teachers who continue to offer their services to this vital aspect of the exam process. The solution is simple. As all such work is voluntary, raise the payments to restore its attractiveness and recognise the work for pensionable service after a substantial number of years doing it.
The calculation and transfer of marks awarded from inside an answer book onto its cover and from there to a spreadsheet in the SEC offices and from there to become a student’s final result may have been appropriate in 1926. Today a data programmer can easily build a program in which the original correcting teacher can input the mark awarded.
Finally, allow students to review their scripts from the day following the CAO offers, and re-correct those appealed the following week, thus allowing successful appeal students to start their third level studies in early September.