The Leaving Certificate and grade inflation


Sir, – Several correspondents have noted the issue of Leaving Certificate grade inflation, a phenomenon which was augmented significantly by the use of predicted grades during the Covid pandemic (Letters, January 20th).

While one can say that the real competition is with one’s peers, and as such it is not in fact a problem, this ignores the scenario where students from previous years apply for courses. If it was easier to obtain high grades last year, then the current year’s students are right to worry about access to competitive courses. The small number of places may be filled by students fortunate to have done the exam when top grades were easier to come by, having deferred or taken a year out.

A solution exists which can be easily applied, one which is used in selection for medical specialist training. It is simply to measure the centile where the individual placed. It is hard to know what an honours degree means when comparing graduates from different countries or universities. It cannot be assumed that finishing in the top 10 in a class means the same thing, as class sizes vary greatly. But finishing in the upper half, decile or other proportion is inherently meaningful. Thus if the cut-off for a given course this year, in points, places a student in the top, say, 5 per cent of students nationally, that should be comparable to someone from any other year reaching that same threshold. Grade inflation may be inevitable, or at least hard to avoid, but the thousands of results from one’s peers will always make for meaningful comparison. If the Department of Education made available graphs or tables of results from each year, it would be possible to make fair comparisons across time, even when the actual results varied greatly. – Yours, etc,



Co Cork.