NewsIs it Time to Update the Victorian Leaving Cert?
Is it Time to Update the Victorian Leaving Cert?

Is it Time to Update the Victorian Leaving Cert?

The Leaving Cert exams start this week. After two years of pandemic disruption a middle ground is being sought that combines continual assessment with final exams. This is certainly a good idea, very few education systems anywhere in the world stake everything on final exams at the end of a two-year curriculum.

Having suffered through the crisis of the pandemic, many sectors of our economy are being reformed and the Leaving Cert system can benefit in a similar way. The most obvious and immediate change was remote learning which brought many challenges but also many opportunities for inclusion and flexibility.  

However, the opportunity for Leaving Cert reform extends beyond remote learning. The post-pandemic world for which the education system must prepare its citizens is very different from what came before. The acceleration of technological adoption, whether it is in healthcare, digitalisation, the green economy, remote working, cyber security or safe traveling means that the type of things we need to learn at Leaving Cert level and the types of skills we need to function in this new world are very different from what went before.

For example, a recent report by the Department of Enterprise Trade and Employment recommended that we “introduce an emphasis on entrepreneurial behaviours such as teamwork, problem solving and risk taking into the Leaving Cert and a move away from learning by rote approach.”

Teamwork, problem solving and risk taking. These are the skills that employers look for, not how much we have learned by rote to get CAO points. These are the skills that are applicable to everything from getting a good job to running our households.

The National Council for Curriculum and Assessment has an ongoing program to reform the Leaving Cert. Many new approaches are being considered. These include more project work, addition of new technical, professional, enterprise or creative areas of learning, and an emphasis on better preparation for adult life.

These are very welcome changes and hopefully the crises we have confronted will drive adoption. The Leaving Cert as it currently stands has served us well but carries too many echoes of a bygone Victorian philosophy perfected in the 1890s based on learning by rote. That was a long time ago. We need to reform the Leaving Cert and now is a good time.

Do you remember your Leaving Cert? Did you learn any skills at school that help you run your household now? Are your children doing exams now? How would you change the Leaving Cert to make it more relevant to the times we live in? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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Someone from D commented:

Yes, it is time to update the LC curriculum. The LC does not prepare one for adult life but only for continuing into further education. Life skills are essential to be covered during one's school years. 

Someone from CE commented:

Many subjects are already CA and Exam. Perhaps it's time commentators actually go and see what is actually going on in schools. That's said six + hours of leaving cert exams at higher level is ridiculous. 

Colette from WX commented:

Absolutely time to change the antiquated Leaving Certificate that only favours students that can route learn. It should be geared towards a more varied curriculum and assessments that require students to complete presentations, profiles and exams based throughout the whole 2 years and not just 3 weeks of the final years. 

Someone from TA commented:

I learned budgeting skills in Home Ec and Business, I opened my first bank account in school. I learned a little about how the universe worked in Physics. I learned about the building blocks of the world around me in Chemistry. I was not good at Irish but I learned to appreciate my culture. I learned Maths is just another language, a means of enquiry to solve problems. I learned a language and spent an amazing summer in that country when I left school. I learned from toughen it out doing subjects I didn’t like, with teachers or students I didn’t like, who sometimes didn’t like me. I made friends, met lots of kids who were mean, met kids from homes having hard times, realised that life is bigger than my own experience. I did a Victorian leaving cert nearly 20 years ago. I went to a large mixed school with plenty of subject choice. This isn’t a fashionable view but I think I had a pretty rounded education, took part in clubs and extra-curriculars, learned to follow rules, occasionally got punished if I didn’t, I really enjoyed the learning experience in school. At the end of it I had to do a leaving, it was hard, but I’ve done many more exams since, some have been harder. I take on board the points made In the article but I think there’s more to life than education for the world of work, as important as that is. Curiosity and enjoyment have to be part of it too. 

Someone from KE commented:

How to build self esteem, how to love yourself and others. How to respect nature. Identifying your strengths and working on your weaknesses. How to look inward for answers. How not to give your power away. How to visualise and manifest for yourself and the planet. The importance of communitys and how to build them 

Someone from G commented:

Things I wish I learned in school: Boundaries Non violent communication skills Self-esteem Sexuality education relevant to real life relationships and situations Sustainability Death and grief Maybe some day it will all become clear how beneficial memorising the old Toraicht Diarmuid agus Grainne, the life cycle of liver fluke and how a diagonal of a parallelogram bisects the area were in my navigation of healthy relationships, employment and just generally being alive in the modern world. 

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