Pressing ahead with the Leaving Cert
Sir, – Congratulations are due to Josh Tighe for a well-researched and well-written article criticising the decision to press ahead with the Leaving Certificate, albeit at a later date (“Students have been ignored in decision to press ahead with the Leaving Cert”, Education, April 13th).
It is not difficult to imagine the additional stresses students are exposed to in trying to study in possibly unhelpful home environments and isolated from their teachers and fellow students.
However, there is one issue he has not taken into account in his analysis: the Leaving Certificate results are not an absolute standard unvarying from year to year. The chief function of the results is to allocate college places between students, all of whom have been subject to roughly the same delays, inconvenience and stresses.
The number of points required to qualify for a course vary from year to year and reflect both the demand for those courses and the general standard achieved by all students. I have no doubt the examiners will also be instructed to take the extraordinary circumstances of this year’s exams into account.
At the end of the day, there will still be roughly the same number of places in the same number of courses available to this year’s students, and, as John McAvoy (Letters, April 13th) has noted, no fairer system to allocate those places has yet been devised.
It is possible to appeal unexpected Leaving Cert results. How would it be possible to appeal the results of a yet to be devised alternative method of allocating places in the much shorter time available before colleges are due to reopen in September?
John McEvoy also noted that high drop-out rates in the first year of college are due chiefly to students choosing unsuitable courses rather than flaws in the Leaving Certificate itself. I would add to that that many students find it difficult to adjust from a highly supervised secondary school environment to a much larger, more anonymous, less supervised third-level environment, often combined with living away from home in a strange city for the first time.
Josh Tighe may not realise it now, but the stresses his fellow students are currently experiencing may more closely be mirroring the stresses they will face at third level, especially if third-level colleges are unable to open in September and are forced to offer their courses largely through an online platform instead.
This cohort of secondary student graduates could in fact be the best prepared we have ever sent forth into the third-level system, psychologically, if not academically, resulting in a lower first-year dropout rate than might otherwise have been the case. – Yours, etc,