Speaking up about the new Junior Cycle
Sir, – As one who has just retired, after more than four decades in the classroom, I was delighted to read Prof Greg Foley’s letter (November 18th)because it expresses, more eloquently than I ever could, the misgivings many teachers have about the new Junior Cycle. In one of my own subjects, English, there are widespread criticisms of the new syllabus and the new examination methods that accompany it. Colleagues in other areas are also concerned about their subject areas.
Questioning the new Junior Cycle seems to be actively discouraged. During the course of Junior Cycle training days colleagues raised numerous questions relating to content, methodology and overall philosophy. Those giving the courses were often unable to answer these questions or rolled off some of the terms Prof Foley mentioned (“international best practice”, “child-centred learning”, “Finland” etc).
Teachers are often amazed to read how well these frustrating days are supposed to have gone, with the JCT twitter account liberally sprinkling adjectives like “brilliant”, “wonderful”, “inspiring” in its accounts of the same events.
Over the years I always encouraged students to develop a questioning mind. So, it is so disappointing to see that some school managements are actively discouraging teachers from criticising the new curriculum. In some cases, teachers have been told to keep their misgivings to themselves and not to share them with parents of students.
There is already much talk of Leaving Cert reform. How unwise would it be to embark on major changes to the senior cycle before a proper and rigorous evaluation, suggested by Prof Foley, is carried out on the Junior Cycle curriculum and examination. Just because other countries have made a mess of it, doesn’t mean that Ireland should follow suit. – Yours, etc,