The Leaving Cert and uncertainty

 

Sir, – We are all aware of the current uncertainty surrounding this year’s Leaving Cert. and many students anxiously await the outcome of this week’s talks in the Department of Education. The problem of what could be used in an algorithm to standardise accredited grades, especially for students who did not sit the Junior Certificate, as it did not happen in 2022, is real.

It is ironic that Sinn Féin and Labour are calling for accredited grades this year and seem happy to continue the process of grade inflation and disappointment for top students, when they rejected the Department of Education’s proposal to use school profiling in 2020 that would have alleviated these inflation pressures. Many politicians are very keen to talk about the wellbeing of this year’s students but I would be equally interested in how they are going to help the wellbeing of genuine top achievers this year, and indeed how they intend to reintegrate an inflated points system with a traditional points system next year.

The wellbeing of the class of 2023 will be important also.

I would also like to point out that the Irish Second Level Student Union survey that was carried out last week in which 68 per cent of respondents preferred the hybrid model for this year’s Leaving Cert could be completed by anyone. If I were a student who didn’t want to do exams, I would have voted several times and indeed asked my Granny to do so as well.

The partial answer to this problem at this stage is to have a traditional Leaving Cert with as much choice on the paper as last year’s cohort had. However, there is no easy solution to the problem of people with inflated points from 2020 and 2021 competing with this year’s students. – Yours, etc,

RICHARD FOX,

Kilcoole,

Co Wicklow.

Sir, – An equation. Take every Leaving Certificate candidate. Add two years of uncertainty. Subtract in-school learning during school closures. Add grade inflation and competition from the past two cohorts. Subtract attendance and teaching from self-isolators and Covid-stricken students and teachers. Add complaints from teacher unions over calculated and predicted grades. Subtract choice. Divide by the number of hypocritical comments made about the need to support mental health in youth. What do you get? – Yours, etc,

Dr JENNIFER WILSON

O’RAGHALLAIGH,

Principal Clinical

Psychologist,

Dublin 5.

Sir, – Dr Gerry McNamara writes that we must have a hybrid Leaving Certificate this year because the traditional Leaving Certificate is flawed (“We must have a hybrid Leaving Cert this year”, Opinion & Analysis, January 24th).

However, he ignores some critical objective data from last year. When students received both a predicted grade from their teacher and sat the Leaving Certificate paper, their teacher’s prediction matched their written grade only 31.3 per cent of the time. Put more pertinently, the predicted grade given by teachers to their own students was wrong in 68.7 per cent of cases.

The consequences of this are stark. Last year’s hybrid system allowed for students who failed their written paper to receive a H1 because their teachers were overly optimistic. Should such students get college places above other students who received a H2 on their written papers? Such scenarios are practically certain to have occurred last year and will again this year if the hybrid model is retained.

Dr McNamara is certainly correct in stating that no educational system is equal, especially in the times of Covid. I submit that a fair way to deal with the prolonged absences and disruption is to have more choice on the exam papers. This would allow students who have missed school-time to focus on smaller areas of their course and demonstrate how well they have mastered those parts of the curriculum. An unfair way to deal with the disruption is to implement a hybrid system that, at its core, is wrong more than twice as often as it is correct. – Yours, etc,

DANIEL LYNCH,

Churchtown,

Dublin 14.