Leaving Cert reform: exams leading to “basic skills deficits” for people

A system used for grading the Leaving Certificate over the past two years “left a lot to be desired”.

This is according to the ISME group of companies, which is submitting a proposal to the Oireachtas education committee regarding the reform of Leaving Cert.

The group says the inflation of grades in the accredited grading system has demonstrated the failure of adopting an ad hoc approach to continuous assessment – and damaged the credibility of the education system as a whole.

Neil McDonnell, CEO of ISME, Recount Current affairs lunch that teachers “naturally” grade students.

“I realize that yes of course we’ve been through two years of a pandemic – but the way we handled the qualifications of two Leaving Cert cohorts left a lot to be desired.

“Last year it is no longer in question that we have a significant degree of social engineering in the way these grades were obtained.

“And this year, I think it was an almost natural reaction from the teachers and the examiners that they were rating the students.

“We had really significant rating inflation in 2021 – now that hasn’t done anyone a favor.”

He says that from an employers’ point of view, the system is not working.

“We know we need to reform the Leaving Cert … we are looking at this through the prism of employers.

“We say we need a reliable, objective and fair review system.”

“Grammar and spelling errors”

And he thinks it results in “very basic skills deficits”.

“Things like writing a compelling email, writing a paragraph of text for a marketing article or something like that – making a paragraph that lacks basic grammar and spelling mistakes [sic].

“This problem is beyond a lot of people right now, and we see it as a very serious deficit in the current education system.”

And Mr McDonnell says the reviews are not moving quickly enough to keep pace with other countries.

“I think we’ve thought for a long time that we have a great education system – however I think the difficulty is that other countries are moving further and faster than us.

“It is the OECD says so About Ireland: Our measured literacy skills among Irish adults are close to the OECD average, and our numeracy and problem-solving skills are significantly lower across all age cohorts.

“So we don’t have a mix right now, and we need to fix it.”

Main Image: Composite image shows a State Examinations Board sign on a door of Beneavin De La Salle College in Dublin in June 2021, and a graduation certificate in English in June 2011. Photo by: PA Images / Alamy Stock Photo

Valerie J. Wallis