THE Junior Cert curriculum has become a straitjacket and the Junior Cert exam a sausage machine, “squeezing creativity and curiosity out of the classroom so that people perform for an exam that really doesn’t matter any more” said the Minister for Education on a visit to Coláiste Chiaráin in Croom.
Minister Ruairi Quinn made an official visit to the secondary school to officially launch the school’s 15 new short courses for the new junior cycle and to acknowledge Coláiste Chiaráin’s ground-breaking work in being the first school in the country to introduce the new junior cycle programme last September.
“I’m delighted to be here today to learn about the fantastic work Coláiste Chiaráin is doing on the new junior cycle. The idea of the super options is to liberate the schools, to allow teachers to teach what they think they want to teach and to liberate the students to learn what they want to learn,” said the minister.
“The school is very much leading the way in reforming the syllabus for the benefit of students and were enthusiastic from the very start,” he added.
Working with the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA), the school has developed 12 short courses, with three new courses being introduced this September: Chinese Language and Culture, European and World Studies, and Digital and Print Journalism.
The minister went on to thank the staff for their dedication and hard work, a sentiment echoed by Coláiste Chiaráin principal, Noel Malone, who said: “It is a tribute to our wonderful teachers that they embraced the new framework in such a positive manner and hopefully they will provide an inspiration for other colleagues in other post primary schools, across the country.”
Such has been the success of the first year junior cycle programme, that some of the courses are being introduced at senior level.
Minister Quinn was flanked by a guard of honour of students as he approached the school building, and met with several representatives from first year who demonstrated the various new junior cycle courses. The minister stopped for a moment to pose for a photograph with Zoe the husky who is the class mascot for the Animal Care and Equine Studies module.
Student Marvellous Ibezim from Raheen who is a studying the course described it as “brilliant”. “I’m enjoying learning about caring for the animals,” said the first-year student.
Both Zoe and Bear, a Siberian Husky, are brought into the class as part of the module, along with other animals including the kittens Coco and Pops, Guinea pigs, a raccoon and rats. “It’s a hands-on and creative way of learning for the new Junior Cert super options,” said Rio McGonigle who teaches the animal care and equine studies module. “It’s basically three years with no exams and what they learn are skills like grooming, veterinary care for small and large animals. It is very practical. If I was a student now I would love it. They will be leaving with their knowledge and certification in animal care. A lot of these students are interested in going on to do veterinary nursing or equine science – the animals are very therapeutic,” she explained.
Marvellous said the hands-on approach is a great way of learning. “We learn how to clip dogs’ toenails and check for lumps and bumps, check their gums and ears,” he explained.
While the purpose of the ministerial visit was to officially launch Coláiste Chiaráin’s 15 new short courses for the junior cycle, the minister also viewed the architectural plans of Coláiste Chiaráin’s new school campus, he raised the school’s new green flag, and he officially launched the Yearbook for 2012/2013.
In attendance at the school were the Cathaoirleach of Limerick County Council, Jerome Scanlan, Cathaoirleach of County Limerick VEC, Cllr Mary Jackman, and CEO, Sean Burke, as well as representatives of Coláiste Chiaráin’s education partners in the new junior cycle programme, including UL, LIT, and many industry representatives.
Meanwhile, a small group of local parents who claim that their special needs children are being denied an education staged a protest across the road from the school entrance during the ministerial visit.