Plans for Leaving science projects

Must try harder

Sir, – Dr Peter E Childs (Letters, February 23rd) highlights many of the problems associated with the proposed increase in the amount of marks that will be given to Leaving Cert science project work. The same types of issues, with the notable exception of laboratory work, will affect most Leaving Cert subjects.

Dr Childs is unfortunately probably mistaken when he states that “The teacher unions are unlikely to support this proposal”. They are most likely to support it. This is because the recently negotiated public sector pay deal commits teaching unions and their members to “continuing to support the delivery of the Government’s key national reform plans and initiatives ... (including) Senior Cycle and Junior Cycle Reform within Schools (and) Curricular and assessment reform”.

If accepted, the new pay deal will effectively silence any real dissenting voices to any future curricular and assessment reforms. – Yours, etc,




Dublin 15.

Sir, – I share the concern of Dr Peter E Childs regarding the proposed plans for Leaving science projects. My own experience as an examiner of the school laboratory-based Junior Certificate science investigations showed how impossible it is to distinguish between the work of an individual student and that of the class as a whole.

But practical work where individual students can display their experimental and analytic skills to problem solve has to be an essential ingredient of any terminal assessment of leaving certificate science. But opponents of this practical element usually cite the issue of financial cost.

Some 44 years ago I taught science in a rural school in Zambia, where science (physics, chemistry, biology, agricultural science) students had to undergo a three-hour practical examination as part of their O-level terminal test. The process involved the use of practical and analytical skills to solve a scientific problem.

All of the work done was the individual student’s own.

It also greatly encouraged the inclusion of experimental work in all aspects of science teaching throughout the school.

If a financially impoverished and developing country could include such an imaginative process in science subject terminal assessment nearly a half a century ago, surely one of the wealthiest countries in the world could take a hint. – Yours, etc,


Dublin 9.