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Going to university: 'It’s ridiculous in 2017, that grades define your path in life, and not your ability'

Our Leaving Certificate system terrorises far too many, scarring them with insecurities and locking them out of educational progression, writes Declan Lavin.

Declan Lavin Jobless student


Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.

Einstein, one of the most intelligent people of all time, said this but the Irish education system doesn’t believe him. They are basing everything on good grades rather than on ability.

There is a severe lack of easily accessible courses in 2017. People say that if you can’t get into a level 8 course, then study the subject part-time or as a level 7. But this isn’t really possible either.

Grades define your path in life, and not your ability

I got 225 points in my Leaving Cert. I got an A1 in History and a C1 in higher-level English. Despite my excellent ability in English and History, it was my grades in Maths, Irish and French that dragged me down, and prevented me from getting into any level 8 courses in media.

I have never had good mathematical skills but have always excelled at writing and being confident on camera. A lot of people are similar to me. They aren’t academically smart, but excel in other areas.

At the moment I am doing a PLC in media in the hopes of getting into a media course afterwards. But my chances are looking more and more grim because of the high entry requirements needed.

To get into college you need three distinctions in three modules if you are applying for level 8 courses from a PLC.  It’s ridiculous in 2017, that grades define your path in life, and not your ability.

I always hated school

I always hated school because I always had that feeling of not being “good enough”. I used to be lectured to about my poor work in Maths, Science, Irish and French.

You might say what relevance is that? Well if you wanted to study Chemical Engineering and you always liked Science and Maths but you were horrible at English and Irish, would you like it if, because of your poor skills in subjects irrelevant to the course you’re studying for, you couldn’t get into the course?

The way the system is structured now means that universities and colleges relies too heavily on grades, rather than aptitude for the course you are applying for.

Other systems

20161015172618_IMG_0243 At the moment I am doing a PLC in media in the hopes of getting into a media course afterwards.

The education system in the United Kingdom is done so much more efficiently, where at age 16 you can choose three subjects to study for your A-levels and just do exams specifically on those three specific subjects rather than being forced to study subjects you don’t do well in.

This is a lot more of a practical approach than what Ireland is doing at the minute, where you are graded on your top six subjects. Three exams is a lot less subject matter to remember. And you can focus on your best subjects.

This is a much fairer system. It may not be perfect, as the A-levels go into a lot more details in the topics you choose than the Leaving Certificate would.

But at least in the British educational system you can get into university based on subjects that are relevant for the degree you want to pursue.

I’m not a lazy student complaining about the system

I’m a hardworking student who wants to get a degree but is coming up against roadblocks and brick walls. All I want to do is get a degree, so I can work with prestigious companies in the future and not be held down by my lack of qualifications the rest of my life.

The fact is that if I can’t get into college in September, I will have to emigrate to England, along with hundreds of others who can’t get into college either. This is basically robbing Irish companies of young talent.

Too restrictive

This is my plea to the Irish Government. Make the entry requirements more relevant to the courses we are applying for. Right now the system is far too restrictive for college applicants.

Our current system favours people who are academically smart. But what about everyone else?

Just because you aren’t academically smart doesn’t mean you’re stupid. It just means you’re intelligent in other areas.

Declan Lavin is from Kildare. He’s currently doing a PLC with hopes of pursuing a degree and career in the media. 

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About the author:

Declan Lavin  / Jobless student

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