The leaving cert will go ahead as normal this year. Is this fair?

The Department of Education has confirmed the 2022 Leaving Cert will return to the traditional format of exams only. This has eliminated speculation of the continuation of the hybrid Leaving Cert as introduced in 2021. Last year saw the balance between an accredited grading system and the option for students to take an exam. As reported by RTE “a hybrid Leaving Cert exam was available to the class of 2021, where students were offered accredited grades or also had the option of sitting an exam. They were then awarded the highest grade from whichever option they chose”.

But is the return to exams and the rejection of a hybrid Leaving Cert fair? While the fairness of the Leaving Cert in totality is subjective,  the argument can be made for the accredited grades to remain this year because of Covid-19 and the impacts it is having on both students and teachers with classroom attendance and the disruption to consistent learning. As reported by RTE this month, “an expert in infectious diseases has shown concern about the number of children who remain absent from school weeks after Covid-19 infection”.

The 2021 Leaving Cert published document by the education department for the requirement of coursework regarding accredited grading states “coursework will be completed by students and submitted to the SEC for marking or to be marked by the SEC examiners in schools”. The move to a hybrid Leaving Cert last year welcomed the uncertainty found in society and presented a mix of learning that demonstrated an alternative to the pressures of relying chiefly on ones exam performance.

With the temporary change to the Leaving Cert in 2021 occurring because of Covid-19, why is this year different? In fact why is the course and Leaving Cert process not being changed for the future regardless of a pandemic. The removal of an accredited grading system that provided students time to actively learn and participate throughout the year with projects/assignments within an appropriate timeframe, presents a disconnect from the Department of Education. Instead of taking advantage of the opportunity to introduce positive changes, and remove the sole reliance on exam pressures by offering a more critical and engaging learning style that highlights ones initiative and retained understanding across the secondary school senior curriculum, as implemented last year.         

A 2022 report highlighted by RTE states “an online survey carried out by the Irish Second-Level Students’ Union found that 68% of Leaving Cert students want a hybrid State exam model this year”.  

This does not mean society should correct every aspect of life that brings pressure or simply just foist changes unnecessarily, but the traditional Leaving Cert is designed to sum up ones work and learning over two years based on one exam, with the added pressures of failing, the lack of control or to progress and the mechanical CAO process, so why not continue the hybrid Leaving Cert going forward?

By Jack Redmond

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