Presented by: Mr. Geoff Browne - President of The National Parents Council Post Primary
To the Joint Committee on Education and Skills - Tuesday the 21st of November 2017
Opening Statement from ‘The National Parents Council Post Primary’
The National Parents Council Post Primary (NPCpp) are grateful to the chair and the Joint Committee on Education and Skills for your invitation and the opportunity to be involved in these discussions about the ongoing reform of the Leaving Certificate Curriculum
NCPpp strongly advocate reform of the Leaving Certificate and welcome ongoing efforts to evaluate and adjust current practices and assessment methods within the education system in Ireland to better prepare students for further education and their future lives and careers.
While acknowledging that our education system has produced a broadly better educated population than existed in Ireland some generations ago the relevancy and results of our current methods of delivery and assessment have been called into question.
Many informed commentators highlight the emphasis that the current system has on the requirement to ‘recall’ information during the course of a single terminal exam. They suggest that this method is completely inadequate towards assessing a pupils actual knowledge and understanding of a subject.
The methods of delivery and assessment currently used therefore actually promote rote learning rather than the acquisition of real knowledge.
Only a small part of the students’ overall intellectual ability is tested instead of an assessment of the his or her true depth of knowledge and ability.
Our education curriculum should encourage exploration, enable students to discover their own talents and should then enable him or her to develop their strengths in areas of genuine interest.
This would then promote spontaneous growth in their knowledge and enhance their ability to contribute towards these areas in their future lives.
We must heed the concerns of our third level educators and Irish business leaders when they tell us that students exiting our secondary schools following completion of the Leaving Certificate are poorly prepared for further education and entry into the workforce.
We must also listen to our health professionals and remember too that our children are not just fodder for our third level institutions or industry.
Along with developing the desired ability to critically analyse, solve problems and be decision makers we must teach our children the essential life-skills and social values required to function as self-confident and mutually respectful citizens in our society and the multi-cultural world in which we live today.
Given the emphasis placed on one single exam at the end of the course, the Leaving Certificate and current points system apply significant stress during what are already difficult years in our teenagers lives.
Through focussing on development of the students’ ability and interests, our education system can create self-motivated thinkers who learn and understand the benefits of discovery through research and evaluation in an environment that they can enjoy.
Our Leaving certificate curriculum should provide facility and stimuli to promote curiosity, interest, analysis and critical thought. It should have a focus on studying to learn for the sake of knowledge itself.
This will broaden our students minds and empower them to progress in their own lives and will better prepare them for the challenges that lie ahead.
NPCpp does acknowledge that some changes have been made to better facilitate students, the way in which they learn and the relevancy of the curriculum.
The Leaving Cert Applied and Project Maths are examples of this.
While welcoming changes made to better suits students, we have received many calls relating to these changes which indicate concern that, once introduced, these new courses or subjects have been left to flounder without any real ongoing evaluation.
When changes are made, ongoing monitoring and evaluation must form part of their introduction and implementation and this must be undertaken with a core focus on the students and how we can best serve their learning process.
Serious concerns around the Leaving Certificate have been raised and discussed for over a decade now.
In 2011, following years of consultation with all stakeholders, the NCCA introduced their original proposals to begin the reform of secondary education with the introduction of the Junior Cycle.
This change was very broadly welcomed but that happened 6 years ago – A COMPLETE secondary school cycle for a child - and we are still waiting for full roll out!
All constituents within our education system – government, parents, teachers and schools must work together to provide the education required to properly prepare our children for their future lives.
It is our collective responsibility and we are currently falling short in that duty. We need to address this matter with the level of urgency and co-operation it demands.
We look forward to continuing to participate in this process and are committed to assist as best we can to ensure that we have an education system that is fully fit for purpose and best serves our children.