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New Leaving Cert science course poses risk to "high standards" of education

It could also hamper Ireland’s chances of attracting foreign direct investment, experts say.

Image: science via Shutterstock

LEAVING CERTIFICATE TEACHERS have expressed concerns over the new science syllabi proposed by the Department of Education.

Their concerns centre on a “lack of clarity” regarding certain aspects of the course, as well as “no indication of the depth of treatment” for certain topics.

It has also sparked fears that implementation of the course could pose a risk to Ireland’s chances of attracting foreign direct investment.

The Irish Science Teachers’ Association (ISTA) say that even experienced teachers are having trouble making sense of the proposals.

An independent external report by the association found that the new course does not match international best standards of education.

The report found that in every other system, “the syllabi include considerable detail about depth of treatment, examination specification, practicals and laboratory experiments as well as providing extended advice for teachers and pupils”, ISTA said.

“The report is adamant that it is not sufficient to describe a high-stakes examination programme solely in terms of topics and learning outcomes and points out that learning outcomes are statements of essential learning.”

Mary Mullaghy, chairperson of the ISTA, said that the Department’s research was “seriously flawed”.

“It is not a question of just ‘adding on’ extra information to the current syllabi in the form of uploading online material,” she said.

The fundamental design used to draft the syllabi is flawed and this design needs to be changed.

She detailed that the course must be altered from containing a list of topics and learning outcomes, to a design that “incorporates depth of treatment, laboratory practical activities, teacher demonstration experiments and Science, Technology and Society material”.

IBEC’s Education and Skills Group is also calling for any changes to maintain the “high standards” of education in Ireland.

“One of the key factors in attracting global companies in Pharma and IT sectors to Ireland has been the quality of the graduates,” Charlie Dolan, chair of the group and current president of ISTA, said.

The Leaving certificate syllabi are the foundation for many of these graduates and as we move into a time of renewed industrial growth, it is crucial that any changes to syllabi maintain these high standards into the future.

The report analysing the new syllabi will be presented later today at ISTA’s annual conference.

Read: More boys are staying on in school to do the Leaving Cert >

English, Irish, Maths… Politics: The Leaving Cert to get a new subject >

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Nicky Ryan

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