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The forgotten voice: a student’s opinion of the Junior Cycle

In the bickering between unions and government, one voice is often lacking: that of the student.

Image: Shutterstock/Areipa.lt via shutterstock

WITH EVERLASTING BICKERING between unions and the Government it seems one voice is always forgotten, pushed aside and silenced. This voice will shape are future, steer our country and finally bury us in the ground. This is the voice of students.

With the recent breakdown in the Government’s relationship with the teachers and their unions, the issue of education and the quality of it has flared up in recent days. The Government’s purposed changes has rattled the teachers and put them in defence regarding education reform. This has led to heated debate and, sadly, striking. It is clear both parties are passionate about their chosen ideology, but is the voice of the only group that really matters ignored?

The stem of all the problems between teachers and politicians is the quality of education for me and my peers. The teachers are certain they are protecting it and the Government is adamant they are fixing it.

The marking scheme 

The purposed reform of the Junior Cert consists of a continuous assessment over second and third year which adds up to 40% of the overall Junior Cert mark. The remaining 60% consist of your run of the mill sit-down exam at the end of the year, similar to what we have now. One key point regarding this reform is that the teachers would be responsible for the markings of the continuous assessment. Standards would be put in place to insure bias and unfair marking would not occur but this somewhat shaky tactic could not possibly insure any level corruption in the marking scheme.

The Government, the ones responsible for the reform are looking to improve a dated system of final all or nothing exams at the end of the year. This style of testing is certainly stressful for students and teachers alike and lots of my classmates consider it an incorrect examination on their overall academic abilities. Others like the structured approach, knowing what is coming and how to prepare for it.

When we had a debate in class regarding the reform the majority of students agreed with the Government’s policy. It allowed a certain level of flexibility with continuous assessment that lessened the blow at the end of the year but kept the most important test for last. The split between 40% and 60% was perfect in their eyes and many believe that they would perform much better under this purposed changed.

Despite the mostly positive reviews that lingering problem of teacher bias caused people to second think their choices. Students who maybe have a rocky relationship with their teachers feel the teacher knowing it’s them they are correcting would use their power to grade them down slightly and would, in turn, favour their preferred students in the correcting. We addressed this problem in school by suggesting an anonymous system where codes or numbers are used instead of names and the duty of the correcting is left to a teacher within the school – but not in direct contact with the students. After hearing this nearly every student was nodding their heads in agreement.

Preparing for the Leaving Cert

The final thorn in the foot of reform is the use of the Junior Cert as a springboard into the more difficult and intense Leaving Cert, the one exam that really decides your future. To every student this daunting exam is lurking ahead waiting to decide their future all within a few hours. The Junior Cert, for my peers and I, is a sort of practise and warning system for what is too come. This is our first taste of the gruelling State exams and it teaches us how to cope in a high pressure situations.

I, like many, would be worried that without the Junior Cert we would enter the exam hall unaware of the intense atmosphere and would leave overwhelmed. The 60% final exam purposed in the reform sounds like the practise we need – but we are weary that without reform over the Leaving Cert as well, many students would be thrown head first into the deep end with regard to exams.

To sum up an eventful day in class, we as students agreed with the Government’s reform – despite certain problems – and even though I cannot stand for every student out there, we also welcome it. To end this piece I call for all the teachers to put down the placards and join us back in classroom so we learn and improve together and hopefully bring Ireland’s education system into the next generation.

David Nash is a Fourth Year student from County Dublin.

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David Nash

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