Wednesday, June 9, 2010

School's out

No more pencils, no more books, no more teacher's dirty looks.

Thus sang Alice Cooper back in 1972 and it is also the tune being sung by thousands of teenagers as the second level school year comes to an end. Those who are starting the Leaving Certificate today are probably too busy panicking to be humming 40 year old ditties but they are facing into a tough few weeks followed by a period of uncertainty until the CAO offers come out in August.

The real issue with the Leaving is whether it is still fit for purpose. There are between 50k and 60k students sitting the exam every year and the results of the exam are used to place these students into assorted college and PLC courses. Is it right that someone's entire life and career is based on how they handled the stress of two weeks in one June? Probably not. But there is no open and transparent alternative. Either we bring back interviews for college places which will push 3rd level institutions passed breaking point with the increased workload or else we scrap the exams and introduce in-class, continuous assessment by teachers which will be wide open to accusations of bias.

The other issue that always crops up at this time of year is grade inflation. Looking at the results each year there is an inexorable trend to higher marks, but the rate is slow. So for most students it doesn't make a difference. You only need to benchmark yourself against your own year, and possibly the year ahead or behind you depending on circumstances. How many CAO applicants are going to be using a set of results from 2000 against this years class? Somewhere in double digits at most I would reckon.

So good luck to those sitting the exams. They'll be over soon and you can get on with the rest of your life. With luck you can be finishing the song come August. School's out forever, school's been blow to pieces.

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