Aaah! Home with three teens while teachers strike and there’s another day due in January? While I despair at having the kids at home when they could be doing something useful in school, I’m with the teachers on this one.
We all moan about how difficult and stressful the Irish second level state exams are, but for the moment there’s no talk about changing the format of the Leaving Cert. THAT’S the stressful one and could likely do with some reform. But until that changes LEAVE THE JUNIOR CERT ALONE!
It’s an invaluable practise run for the Leaving Cert as it gives 15/16 year-olds the bona fide experience of what it’s like to do a state or a university-style exam. There’s no pressure really. So what if the kids don’t get a great result? With 10 subjects or so for Junior Cert, we can’t be good at everything. Students will invariably drop the subjects they don’t like or didn’t do well in. No sweat. College points or future career don’t depend on it. However, it’s useful as a trial run in how to study and cope with a ‘big’ exam. Things like taking a deep breath, reading the exam paper calmly and designate enough time to answer each question under pressure.
The present system may be flawed and tough but it’s fair in that students’ results are marked impartially. The new proposal where 40% of the overall exam is assessed by the student’s class teacher is a worthy goal but what happens if all teachers don’t mark the same way? Or if there’s a personality clash between teacher and pupil – will that affect objective marking? Who’s to know if the student even did their own project? And what if Jonny or Mary doesn’t get a good result? Will angry parents be knocking on the door of their local teacher demanding a recount? Currently, there is a standardised marking system for those checking state exam papers, but the new assessment system apparently isn’t clear. And every single second level teacher in the country is expected to think and grade uniformly. It’s a tall order open to flaws – we could be worse off than the supposed problems our education minister is trying to fix.
Assessment of work within an exam structure seems a good idea but rushing into a new format for the sake of change is shambolic. Why not trial it first on less important subjects like CSPE or SPHE, tease out flaws and ensure all teachers are sufficiently trained before attempting to interfere with core subjects like English and Maths?
Teaching is a tough job. Good educators can bring out the best in our kids and help set them on a path for life. If teachers go out on strike shouldn’t our government listen? Parents – don’t we have right to expect the best education system for our kids, regardless of them being toddlers or teens? I don’t relish another school/working day where the kids are stuck at home. We have a duty to press our minister to sort it.
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Maeve O’Keeffe, the Frazzled Mammy! ©Maeve O’Keeffe 2014
Maeve O’Keeffe is a Cartoonist, Illustrator and Journalist in Cork, Ireland