The lessons of 'grade inflation'


Madam, – The reports by your Education Editor, Seán Flynn (Front page and Home News) on grade inflation are disconcerting, but, as an educator on the front line of the education system, I am not surprised. The reasons for the observed grade inflations are rooted in the education and examining patterns laid down at Junior and Leaving Cert levels and then extended into third level.

Our students learn by rote and are then examined in a formula metric way that simply measures their ability to remember facts. The more this is practised, the better the grades are going to get as both student and examiner master the system which changes little from year to year.

We neither encourage nor test creativity by the way we teach and examine. The result of this is that we produce students who have high grades because they can remember facts, but who are unable to think critically or carry out analysis when they go out into the real world.

Employers are clearly picking up on this deficiency which should not be there if our grades were an accurate reflection of a student’s overall intellectual ability. In addition to teaching students the “facts” we also need to teach them to think and be creative and then allow them to express this creativity in an examination situation. By doing this we will be able to produce more rounded and better-educated students and the current grade inflation will correct itself. – Yours, etc,


DPhil, MRIA,

Prof of Biochemistry,

University College Cork,


Madam, – Oh, the irony of it. Google is the company complaining about the dumbing down of standards in Irish schools and universities. As a lecturer in Irish universities for the past 15 years, I have seen the use, and misuse, of the self-same Google search engine become a substitute for reading actual books for weaker students.

While the company itself is not responsible for this, I find it very interesting that it is only stakeholders like this that are taken seriously by our esteemed Minister for Education. If Google suggested reinstating Special Needs Assistants in primary schools, would he listen to them, I wonder? Education does not start at Leaving Cert level, after all. This vignette shows very clearly whose interests are prioritised by the current Government. – Yours, etc,


Ashford Estate,

The Lough,