I am speaking from my 35 years’ experience of teaching in a second-level school, teaching both the old intermediate certificate and the junior certificate. With my teaching colleagues, we have embraced a myriad of changes through the years. Some of those changes included assessment. For example, a long time ago, there was a junior cycle programme in history, geography and social studies, with the projects corrected by the teachers, but there was cross-moderation. This was organised through the curriculum development unit. There were other projects for environment and social studies and again they were corrected by the teachers but with an independent examiner. Today, teachers do correct the leaving certificate applied and one third of the credits are from teachers.
Teachers have embraced continuous assessment, but they have genuine concerns over correcting their own students in the junior certificate. The current system is fair, objective and transparent. The new proposal undermines that. There will be pressure on teachers to alter marks, in the same way there is pressure on lecturers at third level to alter the marks of students who are dissatisfied with the mark they receive. We know there is competition between schools for numbers and there is always a type of league table in operation.
A form of continuous assessment is already in place, in that teachers give homework, they have class tests and they have Christmas and summer tests. They are also involved in giving their students projects and teachers do value the skills that come about through project work. All that assessment is continuous. The teachers keep the records. They have the marks and the grades to discuss with their students and at parent-teacher meetings. I would like to see that included in some way. Not 40% – that is far too much – but all that work should be recognised.
Rote-learning does have a place. It complements independent thinking. I taught both English and history and there was a place for rote-learning in that.
My other major concern is about the depth of the learning experience. The proposed statements of learning undermine that. As someone who taught history, I have spoken about this with the Minister, because there are grave issues regarding the teaching of history and geography, but I also know from talking to friends who teach other subjects that they have concerns about that learning experience.
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