New ‘Vision’ for Secondary Education Needs to be Seen

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Reform of the Leaving Cert was one of the key recommendations of a new report entitled ‘A 20/20 Vision for Education’.

The report, which was drawn up by the Post-Primary Education Forum – a group that comprises teachers, parents and students – claims to place the concerns and needs of the student at the heart of the education discussion.

Contributors strongly criticized the ‘controlling force’ exerted by the Leaving Cert. This ‘controlling force’ has been a long time in the making, with scores of successive Leaving Cert students forsaking critical or creative thinking in favour of rote learning and points tallies it has so often rewarded.

Such mechanized learning has never been good preparation for the greater autonomy afforded to students at third and fourth levels. One could assume with relative confidence that reforming the Leaving Cert syllabus and its delivery methods so that they are more in line with collegiate education would ease what is often a difficult transition for students. The eventual reward would surely be a general improvement in third-level performance among the students that have come up through the Irish education system.

Another concern that the report raised was the potentially harmful effects that wage cuts may have on the quality of education that is available to students. The unspoken sentiment here seems to be that top graduates will come to view the teaching profession as an unworthy career option  due to its poor remuneration. This would naturally lead to a deterioration in the quality of tuition on offer to students, and to the danger of a negative circle of lower-quality teachers producing lower-grade students.

Though pessimistic, the purpose of such projections is prevention. The reforms proposed by the authors of the report come from the ground level – the people (educators, students and guardians) who deal with the shortcomings of secondary-level education on a day-by-day basis. The Department of Education would be wise to listen and give serious consideration to what they have to say.


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