A paper, entitled Supporting a Better Transition from Second Level to Higher Education: Key Directions and next Steps’ has today been published by the Department of Education. The Department has been working with the relevant bodies including the NCCA, HEA, State Exams Commission (SEC), Irish Universities Association (IUA) and Institutes of Technology Ireland (IOTI) to to address problem areas surrounding the change for young people moving from secondary school to third level.
The paper makes three key commitments. In the first case, it has been found that over-specialisation early in undergraduate programmes leads to confusion for students selecting courses of study, unnecessarily high entry point requirements for some degrees and can also have adverse consequences for the first year experience. Thus, a reduction in the number of level-8 bachelor degree programmes would help eliminate these factors. According to the report, however, the strongly contested places into the healthcare professional programmes will not be affected by this commitment.
Secondly, the Leaving Certificate scale, since 1992, contains 14 grades. This number, as suggested in the paper, says this figure will be reduced.
Additionally, the need to address the problematic predictability in the Leaving Certificate Exam which can lead to undesirable teaching and learning behaviours instead of in-depth learning and critical thinking has also been highlighted in the paper. This issue has been examined by the SEC and they have commissioned an external evaluation to determine if problematic predictability is occurring in the Leaving Certificate. Should this be uncovered, it will be addressed and the process carefully managed by the SEC to ensure fairness to candidates.
Work to address these issues is expected to be completed by year end and the changes agreed will be implemented on a phased basis for fifth year students who commence the Leaving Certificate cycle in 2014.
A range of areas for such further work have been identified including the level of CAO points to be awarded to each Leaving Certificate Grade and the use of additional tools in addition to Leaving Certificate points to allocate places in higher education.
Minister FOR Education and Skills, Ruairi Quinn TD will host a conference in June to discuss the issues arising with stakeholders.