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Exams likely to be downgraded in radical Junior Cert reforms

A new system of portfolio-based assessment is “on the cards”, the Department of Education has confirmed.

Students sit the Junior Cert exams at a school in Ballymun, Dublin
Students sit the Junior Cert exams at a school in Ballymun, Dublin
Image: Sasko Lazarov/Photocall Ireland

A NEW SYSTEM of portfolio-based assessment is likely to replace many Junior Cert exams under proposals to be considered by education minister Ruairí Quinn.

The downgrading of traditional exams in favour of more continuous, school-work based assessment is “certainly on the cards”, a spokesperson for the Department of Education has confirmed to TheJournal.ie. She said the system was likely to be “portfolio-based”, focusing on the completion of a piece of coursework rather than repeated class tests, and added:

The minister is certainly in favour of reforming the Junior Cert. He has made it a priority since he came into office. He’s very anxious and ambitious to begin reforms.

However, she stressed that the proportion of marks which would be allocated between exams and coursework was still undecided. Seán Flynn reports in the Irish Times this morning that a document from the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment – a body tasked with preparing proposals for Minister Quinn to consider – sets forward either a 50-50 split between exams and coursework, or a 60-40 split in favour of exams.

The council suggests that the reforms would lead to a greater focus on learning, rather than simply preparing for an exam. It’s believed the reforms could take place as soon as September 2012.

The NCCA is due to finalise its proposals next month and present them to the minister, the Department of Education spokesperson said. She added nothing had been decided yet, but a final announcement was expected in late October.

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Michael Freeman

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