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Sunday 4 June 2023 Dublin: 18°C
Niall Carson/PA Wire Killian Donovan got nine A1 grades in his Leaving Cert this year - but the Leaving may be replaced by the International Baccalaureate if Europe opts to harmonise second-level education.
# Leaving Cert
Could Ireland end up scrapping the Leaving Cert?
Schools in England scrap the A-levels for the International Baccalaureate. Could we end up following?

THOUGH OVER 58,000 PEOPLE are still only getting to grips with their Leaving Cert results, there’s a chance that in the future there might be no such thing as a ‘points race’ – in fact, there may not even be such a thing as the Leaving Cert.

Havelock Academy in Grimsby, which only got its first set of A-level results yesterday, has decided it’s scrapping the British equivalent of Ireland’s Leaving Certificate in favour of the International Baccalaureate, or IB, believing that it is a better-suited award to give to people on the verge of college.

The school’s headmaster, Nick O’Sullivan, says the IB would “bring us a richness and flexibility which we can apply across the school at all levels.”

The IB system is governed by a spinoff of UNESCO, the United Nations’ educational and cultural organisation. Though based in Switzerland, and – as one might expect – reasonably well-rounded and neutral in its curricula.

It’s more typically used in schools with students from a global background, and who might intend to study elsewhere after their second-level tuition – such as in Brussels, where the children of European diplomats attend schools that award the IB.

It has a global admiring, too: Time magazine, discussing ways of bringing American schools into the new millennium, described it as “a rigorous, off-the-shelf curriculum recognised by universities around the world”. George W Bush had supported extending the number of schools offering the IB programme.

In the UK, meanwhile, the IB was championed by Tony Blair: his government gave funding so that every local authority in the country could allow at least one institution within their jurisdictions to offer it.

In Ireland, it doesn’t have quite so many admirers, but with the move to harmonise third-level qualifications across Europe – as part of the Bologna Process, which has 47 participating countries, including Ireland – gathering pace and slowly reaching fruition, it would be logical that the next step would be harmonisation of the second-level curriculum.

British students coming to colleges in Ireland are often stunned at how many subjects Irish students sit in the Leaving – while most Irish take seven subjects, with some sitting eight or nine, the average Briton takes three A-levels, or four if they’re pushing it.

In the US, meanwhile, many colleges measure entry requirements in an SAT score measured almost entirely on mathematics and English. In Germany, the Abitur is more similar to the Leaving Cert in terms of its breadth; in France, the bac likewise. Either way, the aims of Bologna – to harmonise higher education and thus make student mobility easier – are fundamentally hampered by the mish-mash of entry systems.

Thus, in the future, the second-level students of Europe may all find themselves sitting a standardised second-level syllabus, just as they currently find their third-level degrees being harmonised across the continent. The era of the Leaving Cert may be at an end quicker than we realise.