Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees
Tuesday, 28 September 2021
Joint Oireachtas Committee on Education and Skills
Leaving Certificate Reform: Discussion with School Management Bodies
Mr. John Irwin:
With regard to the changes that we have looked at, there are key skills and competencies. Digitalisation has meant that content can be accessed from anywhere. Therefore, the ability to recall vast amounts of content is not the key competency or skill we need now. The key competency or skill we need now is the ability to analyse and evaluate that content and to distinguish between what is of value and what is not. We have to get to a situation where we get far more analytical thinkers among our students. We should develop those skills in them so they can recognise what is valuable content and what is not. There is a degree of that within it and that is a major challenge for students.
The world in which students are living is one where we are moving towards a far more globalised society. They have to become far more aware in the senior cycle of the global world outside. Many of them will travel and be leaders around the world, as has been traditional in Ireland in the past. We have the central theme of climate change and the area of a sustainable future, which needs to be mindful of the planet we live in now. All of these people will have to be equipped with these particular skills going forward. The first area is the idea of being able to analyse information, as opposed to simply being able recall it. By the way, I was initially trained as a mathematics teacher by profession. I am not against rote learning. Maths is all about learning tables and recognising and identifying patterns. We are not against content or rote learning. There are lots of good to be gained from those. However, we are not in favour of an assessment system that is totally based on recall and content.
The Senator’s second question related to what we have learned over the past two years. I agree with Mr. Crone that we have seen that we have a highly professionalised teacher body in Ireland. We fortunate to have it. We suddenly realised in the past two years that we can survive without the leaving certificate in Ireland. Who would have thought two years ago that we would be able to put together a particular process that would allow people to progress into other pathways in their lives?
Mr. Crone mentioned the idea of the student voice. Students were central at all of the stakeholder engagements on the processes that were brought in around calculated grades and, more recently, accredited grades. They will have an important role in the coming months and years in discussing and seeing where senior cycle goes. We will also see, through the student and parent charter, the parent’s voice and, more important, the student’s voice being more amplified.