*Cue boring rant about the SEC & Irish Education system*
So, as many of you know, I have just (nearly) finished sitting my leaving cert exams – I still have music next Thursday but I can almost get back to normal life in the meantime as my other subjects are over! The experience of doing these exams was so emotionally and physically draining, and after finishing I feel the need to address some of the serious flaws we have in our education system in a post.
The first thing I’m going to talk about is this Irish Times article. I’d like to make it clear; in no way am I saying that the ordinary paper was easy, I’ve seen questions that looked unfairly tough for ordinary level. However, it is in no way fair to say that higher level was “dumbed down” so that students pass. The difference between project maths and the old course, yes, may be drastically big, but it hasn’t been simplified since project maths was brought in – and wasn’t the whole point in project maths that it would simplify the course? And for students who’ve put in two years of solid work only to do a nice paper and be told that a four year old could have done bits of it, it completely trivialises their achievement. Or worse, for students who found it a challenging paper, to get told that it was “easy” takes an even greater emotional toll – it’s extremely difficult to deal with. As well as that, the article refers to ordinary level as “the weakest of the weak” when, in fact, if this was true there would be no need for foundation level!
The second thing that strikes me about our exam system as a whole is the amount of cliches and gossip that surrounds it as a whole. For instance, the amount of times I’ve heard tired jokes about “leaving cert weather” that aren’t even funny is enough to go through my head! As well as that, people who don’t even have anything to do with the exams having a laugh about how Bono featured on English paper 1, or how the Treaty Negotiations didn’t come up in history. It makes students feel like the leaving cert is a joke to the rest of Ireland, a joke that’s happening at the expense of our mental and physical agony. And the worst part is, there’s someone out there getting paid to write these articles! In my opinion it would be much easier for students if the Leaving Cert wasn’t treated in this way, and instead was just like a slightly bigger version of summer exams – it would eliminate some of the pressure associated with the exams if there were no reminders and gossip-y comments in newspapers, radios and everywhere we turn.
Another aspect of the exams that I’ve really noticed over this whole year is the emotional and physical toll it takes on students. Personally, while the biggest thing I’ve felt during the exams was just drained, during the year I found it extremely difficult to cope mentally with both the amount of work I had to do, and also the pressure that was there to do well in these exams. Over the past two weeks reading other sixth year’s twitter feeds has been interesting, seeing how people found different papers, but has also highlighted how brutal these extreme conditions we are under really are and the effects that they have. I’ve seen people tweeting about collapsing, vomiting, crying, fainting, being completely devastated, being anxious about mistakes they had made and more. Is this a fair exam system? It seems clear to me that it’s not, when a 3 hours on a bad day can completely eliminate 2 years of focused work and make students feel absolutely worthless.
One of the biggest problems that seems clear to me about these state exams is how completely pointless they are – nearly every subject puts emphasis on rote learning of information that will go straight out of students heads once the exams are over. It would be much more beneficial in life if exams had a more practical focus and required application of information, rather than spewing it onto a page. Even better would be continuous assessment! This is especially appropriate in history and Irish – in history you’re literally required to learn off a list of dates and essays, rather than focusing completely on analysis, when even people working in this area don’t have to do this, while students doing irish get more marks for how much they’ve learned off about Jimmy’s tragic demise in An Gnáthrud, or the other ridiculous poetry and prose. This, to me, is not an effective system for measuring student’s academic standards.
I guess that’s the end of my rant – well done if you’ve made it this far! If you’re a student who’s just done/still doing the leaving cert, remember that it’s just one number and doesn’t reflect your intelligence! Even getting through the exams retaining a shred of sanity is an achievement in itself, so recognise it as one. And if they don’t go as you hoped, there are so many other options that they don’t tell us about in school! That’s all I have to say for now, but if you have anything to say in response comment below because I’d love to read what others think of all this. Also I’m considering doing a post about my individual subjects and what I thought of the papers but maybe that would be a bit boring for any one who doesn’t do them – I think I’ll see how this is received.
That’s all for now,