Analysis: What format should the 2021 Leaving Cert take? – Irish Examiner

Posted: February 13, 2021 at 10:50 pm

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Anything the Department of Education and Skills can do moving forward to minimise that level of stress, we would be focused on doing that.

The level of stress the minister is referring to is the stress felt by Leaving Certificate students as they face the prospect of sitting their State Examinations in the midst of a pandemic. It has become increasingly obvious, however, that students across Ireland are now feeling let down by the Department of Education and Skills, as it seems that they have done little to alleviate the undue stress felt by the 2021 Leaving Cert students.

The stubborn attitude the department took on school closures, and the 2021 Leaving Cert, has had a damaging effect on students mental health and well-being. For months, we were promised that schools would not face an additional closure, and that the 2021 Leaving Cert would be fair and accommodating.

Unfortunately, it has become abundantly clear that the department has failed on these promises.

Students have lost their trust and faith in a system that promised to keep their best interests at heart.

Every day, the student body of Ireland is subjected to another day of uncertainty with regards to our State Exams. This uncertainty surrounding the exams has put a massive strain on both Leaving Cert and Junior Cert students throughout the last year.

The discrepancies that the student body is being presented with is having an overwhelmingly negative effect on our well-being and welfare. Is this the standard to which students mental health and well-being are hanging upon?

We continue to live in uncertain and terrifying times as it is, and the students of Ireland deserve better than this. We deserve better than being kept out of the loop in matters that are directly affecting our well-being, our education, and our future.

These school closures bring about a great deal of multifaceted issues that sixth year students in Ireland are having to face for a second time, and it is painfully clear what students need: answers. What makes this lack of clarity even more frustrating is the fact that we saw the exact same situation happen with last years Leaving Cert students.

The class of 2020 was kept in the dark and left ill-informed for how their own exams would proceed, with detrimental effects on their mental health. In fact, these students were forced to wait until just one month before the proposed start date of the Leaving Cert 2020 before they learned of the exams unanticipated cancellation.

The time missed by sixth years was always going to be an issue. With the closure of schools now extending into February, sixth-year students will be missing out on five months of in-class tuition.

A lack of face-to-face teaching and an absence of mock examinations has left the class of 2021 ill-equipped and unprepared for a traditional Leaving Cert.

Sixth year students will have missed out on five full months of a curriculum spread out in just under two years. This is a significant chunk of the course missing, and if the traditional exams go ahead in June, students will be sitting an exam in subjects with a curriculum that has only been roughly 72% covered.

The prospect of potentially sitting such an exam in June with little-to-no adequate exam preparation is just one of the many things that are causing a great deal of distress for exam year students across the country.

With this attitude in mind, the Irish Second-Level Students Union (ISSU), the national representative body for second-level students, consulted and engaged with students and asked them the key question - what format they thought the 2021 Leaving Cert should take.

The ISSU consulted with over 20,000 students to allow them to express their thoughts and opinions on how the State Exams should be run. Across Ireland, the student voice was heard loud and clear - over 81% of respondents indicated they wanted the choice between calculated grades or sitting an in-person exam.

After all, isnt this the most accommodating option, and arguably the fairest? The class of 2021 has endured more stress and anxiety in one year alone than anyone should face in a lifetime - why now should our opinion be exempt from how we believe our exams should be run?

The ISSU has set up a dedicated hub of online learning resources with the aim of simplifying Department guidelines and providing clear statements around students' rights during online learning. Read more below All resources are available at:

Many feel that opening up the choice to students is a turn in the wrong direction. But to create a Leaving Cert that is fair and accommodating means creating an exam that is equitable.

The student experience of school closure has been varied; while some students have thrived from remote learning, more have fallen drastically behind in the curriculum, plighted by stress, anxiety, and uncertainty around the Leaving Cert.

Its at times like this that the student voice should not be divided, but united.

We should stop fighting with each other on whether a traditional Leaving Cert or calculated grades is the most suitable option, but come together and fight for a common cause - for equity and fairness, for an accommodating Leaving Cert, and most of all, for answers.

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Analysis: What format should the 2021 Leaving Cert take? - Irish Examiner

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February 13th, 2021 at 10:50 pm

Posted in Mental Attitude