The Leaving Certificate

 

Sir, – J Tidmore (Letters, January 19th) raises excellent points with respect to the Leaving Cert. While the circumstances of the past two years forced difficult, and perhaps unfair, compromises, we have surely reached a point where we have sufficient capability to revert to some semblance of normality. The traditional Leaving Cert, for all its acknowledged flaws, represents a common assessment of all participants.

While reverting to a full externally assessed exam may remove much of the grade inflation of the past two years, it will also ensure that students are being assessed on a consistent, measurable output. The key element of the Leaving Cert for any student applying for college is not the bragging rights of how many points they received, so much as where they lie in the ranking of students when compared to their peers applying for the same courses. In this respect the calculated grades approach placed an unfair burden on many groups, both among teachers and students. Boys were subject to acknowledged gender bias through the process that saw the gender gap widened in an entirely artificial manner. Previous sitters of the exam found their marks degraded by grade inflation that saw a dramatic increase in students attaining maximum marks, with admissions to some courses becoming a lottery. Teachers were placed in an invidious position whereby they were forced to pass final, inevitably imperfect, judgment on their pupils based on a truncated view of the students’ progression.

Disruption now is far less pronounced than in the early days of Covid. Students partaking in a two-year senior cycle have seen less disruption to their studies than witnessed during the most extreme lockdown periods. In addition, the absence of Junior Cert information for many removes one of the few consistently applied data based elements that could inform an alternative assessment process, inevitably leaving students under a predictive grade approach more at the mercy of factors and biases beyond their control. Schools have inevitably found ways of delivering education in the new normal. In this sense, pupils are broadly speaking facing a consistent challenge, and appropriate adjustments to the exam structure, as mooted by authorities, would seem a pragmatic approach. Given this, any call to drag on with the compromises made for the darkest days of Covid should be rejected. Our children deserve better. – Yours, etc,

ALBERT WINSTON,

Glasnevin,

Dublin 11.

Sir, – Covid measures taken for the Leaving Cert in the last two years have resulted in unprecedented grade inflation. The percentage of students achieving a H1 has nearly trebled from 5.4 per cent in 2019 to 15.2 per cent in 2021.

Not surprisingly, 2022 Leaving Cert students do not want to be at a disadvantage to those who received higher scores in the last two years, and I expect this is a significant driver of calls for a repeat of calculated grades this year.

Whether this year or next, policymakers will need to grasp the nettle of grade deflation. But this must be done in an equitable way when awarding college places. One way to do this would be to adjust points carried forward from previous years to reflect deflation in points from year to year. – Yours, etc,

ULRIC KENNY,

Glenageary,

Co Dublin.