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:

I will come back to Senator Mullen briefly on those points. I thank him very much for his questions. Mr. Curtis has already referenced the most recent OECD report which speaks about the high-performing Irish education system. That is external and involves comparison across OECD countries. If one takes a look at any of the literacy monitoring that goes on, one will see that we are among the top performers in the world. These are independently verified tests. If one takes a look at the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study, TIMSS, which is used to assess numeracy, one will see that we are fifth in the world. As Mr. Curtis pointed out earlier, we have a very poor record of investment in our education system but by the same token, we are getting a very good return. The teacher unions are very valued stakeholders in the educational process. Do we agree with them on every single element? No, but we would not be expected to. However, by the same token, we all have a common goal. We want the best possible outcomes for the students in our schools. That is what we want. As Mr. Flood referred to, we are developing young citizens who are going to go out and become not only leaders in their own communities, but global leaders.

The Senator spoke about student perspectives. I encourage him to look at the Laura Lundy model. Laura Lundy speaks about the importance of the student voice. It is not that you do what the students ask you to in every case but that you listen to the students' voices and evaluate their perspectives. This becomes a very important perspective in making informed choices. It is not the deciding factor, but it informs decision-making. I encourage the Senator to take a look at the Laura Lundy method.

When you talk about orals, it is the educational perspective we are looking at. A 15-minute interview for a two-year subject area is a very formulaic way of assessing it, rather than assessing it over the two-year period when students develop language competencies that are being witnessed on a daily basis in classrooms by language teachers. There has got to be a focus on that oral competency in language agus i nGaeilge. I return to what Mr. Flood mentioned about ensuring that when we move to that type of assessment - if that is the way we go, which I would strongly support - we must have robust moderation in place to support and validate that process.

Those are just my observations. I will leave the question on Chinese to somebody else, if that is okay. I thank the Senator for his question.


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