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.