Time to rethink the Leaving Cert?

 

A chara, – I enjoyed a really memorable couple of years as I completed my final two years in second-level education. During that time I cultivated a vibrant passion for science and literature, with English and physics being my favourite subjects. I felt that to gain a solid foothold in these subjects I should concentrate on deeply understanding the concepts, and to this end I worked on bringing a questioning , analytical approach to my studies, which were not merely informed by narrow learning objectives geared towards the final exam system I was in. I felt I was successful in this regard.

However, the final exam system does not reward such traits. Instead, only the practices of industrial-scale rote learning, and adopting a “one size fits all” approach to solving problems seem to be recognised by an educational system that has successfully managed to marginalise anyone with a creative, imaginative or inquisitive slant. We have papers (for example in physics) attempting to examine everything from the age of Archimedes up to the most recent advances in particle physics, all in three hours.

How then is it possible for examiners to set a suitable question that does any sort of justice to a concept which may have taken scientists centuries to fully understand, without being excessively vague or unclear?

In response to this, teachers are being forced to teach courses that are vastly overgeneralised, and who only have time to skim over important concepts that, by design of the curriculums, are too watered down and leave students in a tailspin by virtue of their vagueness and lack of context.

The result of this is people are forced to tailor their subject choices not by interest or aptitude but by what requires the least amount of critical thinking.

More emphasis is being placed on manipulating the marking scheme and mastering exam technique rather than gaining any real insight into one’s subject. Thanks to our education system, we are rewarding students to “play the system”, and develop a behaviour which continues well beyond their school years and which ultimately, in my view, stifles the innovative capacity of our country. Grinds schools egg on this suboptimal culture, concocting elaborate and detailed schemes on what to do to best exploit the marking scheme, along with providing sample answers which are in effect just providing students with the answers before they enter the exam. I believe this is a very dogmatic approach.

I am completely disillusioned with this system. Curriculums have to change and this culture of dogmatism purged, and I see no other option but an all-out boycott of the Leaving Certificate by all second-level students. – Is mise,

PETER HEERAN,

Templeogue,

Dublin 6W.