Leaving Cert creates ‘worrying disconnect’ for students entering third-level

8 Aug 2018

Image: panitanphoto/Shutterstock

A new survey of first-year college students appears to show that the Leaving Cert isn’t preparing them for third-level education.

Despite being one of the most important tests a young Irish person can take in their life, a new survey suggests the Leaving Cert might be failing at preparing students for a college education.

This was the finding of a survey of 304 first-year students conducted by the Institute of Education at Dublin City University (DCU) published today (8 August).

DCU said the survey was conducted among students from a range of business, education, engineering, computing, humanities, social sciences, science and health programmes.

Among the major findings was that just under one-quarter (24pc) felt that the Leaving Cert programme failed to teach them ways to use technology to boost their learning.

Meanwhile, only 27pc of those surveyed felt the Leaving Cert prepared them well to compare information from different sources and 28pc said it didn’t help them identify sources of information at all.

When it came to asking how it challenged their understanding of the world, only 39pc felt that the State examination got them to think independently.

Possible remedies

In a somewhat startling admission, only 33pc of respondents said that the Leaving Cert made them more open-minded and only 25pc said it made them critically evaluate information or ideas.

It wasn’t all so negative, however, as 83pc of respondents claimed the Leaving Cert gave them the ability to persist when learning was difficult.

The same percentage also said it made them well organised, while 75pc said it helped them cope with the pressure of a heavy workload.

“While there are some encouraging elements to take from this survey, the overall findings of our research reveal a worrying disconnect and, consequently, challenging transition between second and third-level education,” said Prof Michael O’Leary, director of the Centre for Assessment Research Policy and Practice at DCU’s Institute of Education.

“Despite being the main pathway used for entering third-level education, the Leaving Cert is not, on this compelling new evidence, sufficiently equipping students with the necessary skills for third-level study.”

Offering a potential remedy, O’Leary suggested building on the recent changes applied to the Junior Cert cycle.

“At senior cycle, this might involve, for example, exposing students to a wider range of literature and teaching them how to cite others to lend support to their views while at the same time broadening assessment to include approaches that facilitate the gathering of evidence for critical, independent thinking,” he said.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic