Rethinking the Leaving Certificate


Sir, – Shane McGagh offers a defence of the Leaving Certificate as “one of the fairest institutions in Irish society” (Letters, September 15th).

He points out that students “cannot be discriminated against in the corrections process regardless of gender, race or socioeconomic background.” He also asserts that “parents spending money on their children’s success in the Leaving Certificate” is an “investment in a child’s education” and “a betterment to society”.

By this he suggests, probably correctly, that the spending of money on education leads to better outcomes for those children, reflected at least to some extent in better performance in the Leaving Certificate.

Surely the obvious point to be made here is that the availability of parents’ spending to supplement the education of children is not distributed evenly across the population or indeed across socioeconomic backgrounds.

Not every parent can afford to pay more. Therefore it does not matter that anonymised marking prevents biases from directly affecting grades if the actual performance of pupils in the examinations depends to any appreciable extent on the money their parents have spent on their education.

It is inconsistent to praise the blindness of the system to socioeconomic background while recognising that parents with more disposable income can readily increase their children’s prospects of success in that system. 

The Leaving Certificate may well have some of the positive features that Mr McGagh describes and praises, but we should not be blind to its failures. – Yours, etc,




Dublin 15 .