Points race and second-level education


A chara, – Much of the discussion around the Leaving Certificate results revolve around teacher assessment, the need for terminal State examinations, grade inflation and increases in CAO points.

What is largely ignored is the influence of the points system on post-primary education.

Peter McGuire raises the interesting question in his article “Is it time to ditch our points race for college?” (September 28th).

The purpose of the points system is to function as a rejection mechanism, to select and reject students for places in third-level education. Market criteria and not the academic suitability of the students is the driving force behind the system.

The greater the demand, the higher the points for any course of study.

We have now reached the ridiculous situation where students with maximum points have to undergo the stress of random selection for college places in some faculties

In would be difficult to exaggerate the negative, distorting influence the competitive race for high points exerts on deep-seated educational processes at post-primary level.

The packaging and preparation of knowledge for examination success reinforces the values of passive consumerism among students.

The curriculum as taught, demands very little active participation in higher order or creative thinking in spite of the efforts of many dedicated teachers and committed students.

The system does not require the student to be independent minded and self-directed, beyond certain narrow confines.

Furthermore the stress inherent in the system can have a deleterious effect on our teenagers’ mental health.

McGuire is to be commended for hopefully opening a discussion on alternative methods of facilitating the transmission of secondary students to third-level education.

– Is mise,


Dublin 9.