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. Paddy Flood:

A question about ETBI was asked, so I am happy to lead out on that. To link the digital skills and the real world, there is the little pilot we have with the Department's Post-Primary Languages Ireland, PPLI, initiative on Polish language as a subject. That is replicating work that has previously been done with island schools where physics through Gaeilge has been provided in Irish schools. We still advocate the real connection between the teacher and the classroom. The role of digital technology expands the possibilities, particularly in rural areas with smaller schools, to give students at senior cycle access to digital learning and probably to prepare them for the learning of the future.

I will comment briefly on the vocational pathways, etc. It is really about us as a society giving value to those pathways. It is possible today to become an accountant using the apprenticeship route. It is possible to follow the new apprenticeships into all sorts of areas, but we still probably have an over-fascination with leaving certificate points, the CAO and particular courses. Any reform of the leaving certificate into senior cycle must value knowledge and the skills, as referred to by Mr. Curtis. If there is a vocational pathway, for example, it needs to be of equal value and treated and seen as such by all institutions across the State. That has not been the experience to date. As for the value placed on traditional academic learning, it has real value to us but cannot be the only form of learning.

The experience of junior cycle tells us that it is possible to apply skills. That is the key lesson from junior cycle. It is also a matter of taking the knowledge and applying it. When we see young people studying, for example, English or business studies to do their projects, find out what it is about a business in their community and then present to their peers, we know it is possible to have a more interactive form of learning. A key part of that is to recognise that senior cycle takes place over two years. There is such an emphasis on the end of term at the end of sixth year but there are possibilities within fifth year to focus on what assessment practices can be introduced there. We would guard against over-assessment. There must be time for learning and research. Fine balances are being established all the time, but all our evidence suggests that is possible.