Irish Software Association weighs in on Leaving Cert reform

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About now, students up and down the country will be enjoying a well-earned break having negotiated the travails of the Leaving Certificate. Some will be anticipating college life and the fresh set of challenges that await them. And indeed they are fresh challenges: moving from home, meeting new people and settling in to a new location. But perhaps the greatest challenge lies in the way that they will be asked to engage with the subject areas they have opted to study.

Transitioning from memory-based learning to analytical learning can be difficult if the student is not prepared for it, yet making this transition is essential – and not just for students’ academic careers, but for their professional careers too.

For some time now, industry spokespeople have bemoaned the delivery and assessment methods used for the Leaving Cert. Recent criticisms came from representatives of the Irish Software Association (ISA), who claimed that the Leaving Cert exams were an inadequate way of measuring a student’s ability, or of preparing them for the critical and creative thinking that will play a central role in growing the indigenous software sector.

A change in thinking, argues the chair of the ISA Edel Creely, must occur both at secondary and tertiary levels: ‘We will need graduates who can solve problems, work in teams and manage projects. These skills can be integrated into primary and second-level education, and continue right through to college,’ she said, while also arguing that open-book exams, more project work and extended essays, extra-curricular activity, and demonstrations of innovation and creativity at Leaving Cert level would help advance a deeper understanding of the subjects being taught.

She also explained that the ISA believes colleges should give undergraduate students the freedom to choose interdisciplinary programmes in order to avoid early specialisation.

‘A data scientist, for example, draws on maths, computing, science, statistics and sociology to interpret information and produce insights, but most colleges do not offer these subjects as part of the same programme. That needs to change’ she said.



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