Review shows students think Irish should become optional for Leaving Cert

By Jess Casey

Many students think Irish should become an optional subject for the Leaving Cert as a review of senior cycle education uncovers mixed views on keeping Gaeilge compulsory.

Parents would also like to see students have the option to focus on five exam subjects instead of seven. Many students believe all subjects should be optional.

The finding is included in a review of the existing senior cycle, launched in 2016 by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA), which is now open for public consultation.

The review Explored the current curriculum structure of the senior cycle and sought feedback from education stakeholders, teachers and parents as well as the input of 2,500 students in participating schools.

During this consultation with students, Irish was the subject mentioned most often during discussions on whether any subjects should be compulsory or not.

However, concern over reducing the number of subjects studied by students was also expressed in email submissions to the NCCA due to the negative impact this might have on the study of Irish.

Some students also highlighted the importance of retaining at least some exposure to the language during the course of the review. To encourage the spoken language, the oral component of the Irish course should reward fluency over memorisation, it was suggested.

Another suggestion was to divide subjects into compulsory and optional areas, like "maths for life" and "maths for further study".

A similar suggestion was made to encourage spoken Irish by making the language and culture compulsory but offering the study of Irish literature to students as an optional additional module.

During the course of the review, the current system of offering bonus points for maths through the CAO was also questioned as it was seen as impacting students’ workloads. Students also expressed a desire to see a greater variety of subjects at senior level, including subjects linked to third-level courses like psychology and law as well as more creative subjects like drama.

Many teachers and students also suggested there is a need to cover less subject content, fewer subjects or major and minor in subjects to develop a broader range of skills and reduce stress and pressure on teachers and students.

Teachers, parents and students suggested that all students should have access to work experience during the senior cycle, and some teachers and parents favoured making Transition Year mandatory for all students.

With research showing that Irish students experience high levels of stress and anxiety due to the “high-stakes” nature of their final State exams, a call for a greater emphasis on promoting wellbeing also emerged during the review.

The review also found that while the current wide variety of curriculum components available to students was very positive overall, the focus on the Leaving Cert exams often dominates the overall senior cycle experience.

“A narrow, if understandable, focus on examination performance and on maximising CAO points across a range of subjects can emerge and can heighten stress for teachers and students alike.”

The National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) is currently inviting feedback on the review to date, through an online survey or by making a written submission. Closing date for submissions is November 1, 2019.

Details of the review so-far and the associated documents can be found here.

Following this, the NCCA will highlight priority areas and an advisory report will be issued to the Minister for Education and Skills for consideration.

Most Read in Ireland