Last week the Minister for Education and Skills, Ruairí Quinn, T.D. announced a radical overhaul of the Junior Certificate with changes to be implemented over an eight year period starting in 2004.
Dr. Pádraig Kirk, CEO of Co. Louth VEC, welcomed the forthcoming reform saying that,
“Change to the way students are assessed at this level was long overdue, but it is critical that the reforms are properly resourced, monitored and evaluated to ensure their successful implementation”.
The changes announced to the Junior Certificate are the most radical ever at this level, even greater than the replacement of the Intermediate and Group Certificates with the Junior Certificate itself in 1989.
Some of the key changes that will take place include:
The Junior Certificate exams at the end of third year will be phased out and replaced with a system of continuous assessment across the three years with greater emphasis placed on school work like projects and case studies.
The State Examination Commission will continue to assess English, Irish and mathematics for a limited period but teachers will mark all other exams and schoolwork.
Standardised tests in English, mathematics, science and Irish will be conducted at the end of second year and a new grading system will be introduced.
Pass and honour levels in subjects will be discontinued, except in the core subjects of english, Irish and mathematics and the maximum number of subjects a student can take is ten.
Schools can develop their own short courses in a range of subject areas including Chinese, film studies, computer programming, ccology, etc and students will obtain a ‘school certificate’ instead of a state certificate at the end of third year.
Dr. Kirk said, “teachers are continually assessing their students every day in their classrooms; this new system will allow for the outcomes of that assessment to be credited to students hence removing the reliance on a single examination at the end of three years of study and all the unnecessary pressures that come with it”.
The CEO acknowledged that the new system will provide certain challenges for schools and teachers and pledged to support all VEC schools and centres in implementing the reforms.
The first students to study under the new system will be those entering second level school in September 2014.