Friday, October 5th 2012

Fine Gael TD for Kildare North, Anthony Lawlor, has warmly welcomed the plans to overhaul the Junior Certificate examination as announced yesterday (Thursday) by Minister for Education, Ruairí Quinn. This long overdue reform will provide for a skills-based approach to assessment and will ensure that students develop key skills for later learning in life through innovative and creative teaching practices.

“For too long the Junior Certificate cycle has been examination focused with an emphasis on rote learning and rehearsing questions for the final State exam. As a consequence, many students are not making progress in English and maths and becoming disengaged from learning. The new proposals, which will be phased in over an eight year period, will allow for more varied and interesting programmes and most importantly allow students an opportunity to become more actively engaged in learning.

“Instead of the junior cycle culminating in State examinations, continuous assessment will be introduced with the final examinations accounting for 60% of the overall mark. An element of these plans which I particularly welcome is that schools will have the autonomy to set subjects which will meet the specific needs of the local community. As well as being engaged in core subjects such as English, Maths, Irish, and the sciences, students will have the opportunity to take short courses developed by the school. The short courses, for example, could take the form of agriculture science in rural schools which could ultimately benefit the wider community.

“I also believe that these changes to assessment will produce more well-rounded students as they prepare for their senior cycle, by helping them build on their capacity to manage their own learning. Emphasis will also be placed on guidance and pastoral care, among other subjects, which will assist students in difficulties and who are confused about their future.

“I firmly support Minister Quinn in these plans and am grateful that in such a short period of time in Government he has set about reforming an antiquated learning system. This is not a cost saving measure, but rather significant resources will be invested to implement the new junior cycle with in-service training being provided to teachers. I look forward to these plans being implemented and by 2020 seeing all students preparing for the Leaving Certificate equipped with the necessary learning skills for a successful career.”