We wish to make it clear that while the second-level teacher unions are seeking to maintain state certification and external assessment, we are in favour of changes to enhance the Junior Cycle and support the introduction of new forms of assessment, as long as these assessment components are externally marked.
We agree with the Minister for Education and Skills that project work, portfolio work, practical work and other methods of evaluating student learning are a vital element of a modern assessment system.
We also agree that broadening assessment in this way may help to reduce the pressure associated with having only a terminal written exam.
However, in order to maintain the integrity of our state certificate, we believe all State exams, whether written or practical, should be externally assessed.
Forcing teachers to grade their own students for state certification will have a negative impact on the student-teacher relationship and will lead to inconsistencies between schools, thereby undermining educational standards nationally.
Currently, a number of Junior Certificate subjects have practical exam components that are externally assessed. For example, the Junior Cert science exam contains a significant practical element which is externally assessed.
Other subjects such as CSPE (Civic, Social and Political Education), home economics, music and art also include significant practical elements which are externally assessed. This means that students’ work in these exams is subjected to a rigorous and standardised external assessment process overseen by the State Examinations Commission which ensures consistency, fairness and objectivity for every student.
Just like parents and students, teachers want an improved education experience for our Junior Cycle students. However, teachers are deeply concerned about the negative impact of the Minister’s current proposals.
Such far-reaching change cannot be easily undone, so we must get it right from the start. We regret that we must resort to strike action in order to stand up for education. However, we have exhausted all other avenues to date. We believe a solution exists which meets the need for improvement of the Junior Cycle, but which protects education standards, is student-centred, and which does not undermine the integrity of our State exams system.
Philip Irwin ASTI President
Gerry Quinn TUI President