Irish school students heavily favour hybrid exam model, survey finds

Irish school students heavily favour hybrid exam model, survey finds

SECOND LEVEL students in Ireland who are to do their Leaving Certificate and Junior Certificate examinations this year are heavily in favour of a hybrid model for completing them, a new survey has found.

The survey by the Irish Second-Level Students' Union (ISSU) shows that two-thirds of exam students are calling for a hybrid model - 68% of Leaving Cert students and 63% of Junior Cert students.

The survey was carried out online and submissions closed on Friday, and over 40,900 responses were recorded from students cross the country.

Speaking on the matter, President of the ISSU Emer Neville said that "it has been made abundantly clear that students would like to see a hybrid model implemented for the State Examinations 2022."

"The ISSU State Examinations Survey for 2022 saw double the engagement from students than previous years," she continued.

"We are calling on the Department of Education to hear the voice of students, who are continuing their education in abnormal times. With the levels of disruptions, mental health pressures and classes missed, we are asking the minister to introduce a hybrid model for state examinations."

The results of the full survey, which will be released soon, also show that students have voiced their concerns about missing classes and absenteeism of both students and teachers in the classroom.

Opposition parties have also called on the government to heed to calls of students following the survey.

"The message from Leaving Cert students could not be any clearer; they need a choice, between written exams and calculated grading, in recognition of the significant disruption they have experienced in their learning over the last two years due to Covid-19," said inn Féin spokesperson on Education Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire TD.

"The Minister for Education cannot leave them waiting in limbo any longer. Now is the time to reassure students and provide some clarity."

Labour Party TD Aodháin Ó Ríordáin similarly said it would be "wrong-headed for the Minister to go back to 'normal' given that the education experience for students is still being negatively impacted by the pandemic."

"Until a clear decision is made, this issue will rumble on and on," he said.

He also said that in light of evidence that first year students in university are performing much better than had been anticipated, "it's time to have a conversation about our education system and reform how we assess our students."

"We need an education system that works for our young people; one that develops skills and pathways to a range of options for graduates from apprentices to PLCs to university. We must be guided by our young people in this process."

Both teachers unions, the ASTI and TUI, have called on a traditional examinations o go ahead.

2021 students were able to opt for a calculated grade based on their junior cert exam results, however the ASTI says that due to the pandemic in 2020 and the absence of vaccination programmes at the time, this year's Leaving Cert students "could not undertake their Junior Certificate exams as normal."

"This means that there is no Junior Cert data from externally assessed Junior Cert exams available for these students.

"The preservation of Ireland’s high quality, fair, and independent State Exams system is vital."

It also said that school communities are currently working towards a traditional exam formats.

The TUI has said that "current circumstances are radically different from previous years and there is no justification for offering additional options to students."

"Recent contributions from some political parties around this issue are unhelpful and will inevitably lead to more uncertainty in school communities that are already struggling with the varied consequences of the pandemic," a statement read.

"We are already receiving reports of students disengaging because of an expectation that they will not have to sit examinations.

Similarly, with the lack of Junior Cycle data to aid a standardisation process, the union says "advocates for a repeat of the emergency methods are therefore advocating for something that is either impossible or else will be radically changed and involve historical school data that would be hugely unfair for many students."

Last week, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar told Newstalk that the plan was "getting back to a normal Leaving Cert".

"What they don’t want is the government to tell them that it’s going ahead and then turn around and April or May and the plan has changed because there’s a new variant or because of something else.

"Certainly the position at the moment is, as the Minister of Education says, that the plan is to go ahead with the Leaving Cert in its normal format with some modifications."