Today, thousands of Junior Certificate students all over Ireland received their results. I can say that in our house we were thrilled and very proud with the results achieved by my daughter Vicki - she did wonderfully well, and is out celebrating as I write this (very proud Daddy!).
Katherine Donnelly, writing in today's Irish Independent, reports that the Junior Cert Results spark new fears over standard of maths and that failure rates were high in Maths. The standard of Maths has been a worry for educators for a long time now, we continue to worry about it - but not actually do a lot to effect real change. I see the consequences of poor standards in Maths on entry to third-level every year. At NCI we put a huge effort into Maths support from a dedicated team - it's needed.
Interestingly, I also note that Donnelly writes that "Only 85pc of Junior Cert candidates sat Irish this year, down from 88pc five years ago and it compares with 99pc for English and maths, 91pc for geography, 90pc for history and 88pc for science". This is an interesting observation - I have long been an advocate for removing the compulsory nature of Irish in school, and using the (wasted) money somewhere else instead. Why should the State pump millions of euro into supporting a dead language when there are hospitals that need funding and families that need food to eat? The Irish language will survive - there are a dedicated group of people who will ensure this. We have to ask ourselves if it is worth spending our precious taxpayer's money propping up Irish? Me - I think not. The above trend will continue, I predict that in 10-15 years that the figure above will decrease from 85% to about 50%. Cue míle murder from the Gaelgoirs!
It's been 35 years (1975) since I did the then Intermediate Certificate exam. I remember very little about it - I got two B's (History and Geography), four C's (French, Science, English, and Latin), and two D's (Irish and Maths). I do recall the Maths exam - if I'm not mistaken 1975 was the first occasion that calculators were allowed in the Inter and Leaving Cert exams. Of course, very few people had them then and I felt very deprived and disadvantaged when the boy next to me in the exam hall had a calculator, while I (and almost every one else) didn't. As I remember, they were banned from state exams for the next few years (they were not allowed when I did the Leaving Cert in 1977). Calculators are now allowed of course - but has anything else changed?