Time to redesign ‘stifling’ Junior Cert, says IBEC

Exam fosters negative attitude and discourages continuing education

The Junior Certificate stifles creativity and a spirit of enquiry in the next generation, IBEC, the group that represents Irish business, has claimed this week, as results of the exam were released.

Slamming the make-up of the current Junior Cert syllabus, the group said that society and business need an education system that produces individuals who are adaptable, can think for themselves and have an appetite to learn.

The junior certificate, which is assessment and output focused, fails to produce these skills which are now critical for the knowledge economy.

Siobhan Masterson, IBEC’s Senior Policy Executive, says that the Junior Certificate curriculum fosters negative attitudes towards particular subjects and discourages many from continuing within the formal education system.

“Failure to radically reform the Junior Certificate is, therefore, a failure to recognise the huge potential that young students can achieve during their early years at second level. “

Ms Masterson also said that by placing too much emphasis on rote learning, the Junior Certificate is archaic and out of touch with the needs of our society and economy.

“This system ignores the social, emotional, physical, aesthetic and cognitive development of a child.”

“What business wants is to equip individuals with the skills necessary to maximise their prospects of having fulfilling and rewarding careers. This will be a major factor in determining their quality of life.”

She recommended that the junior certificate should be reformed to include a bridging framework between primary and second level, and aim to create the following;

• Prepare for a life of learning

• Build readiness and capability for learning

• Promote self-esteem

• Encourage exploration, risk taking and entrepreneurship

IBEC urges the Department of Education and Science to continue its progressive work in implementing Project Maths and to urgently reform the Junior Certificate in line with teaching and learning for the 21st Century.

* Project Maths; this is a new initiative in maths which is under way this month, with the start-up of Project Maths in an initial group of schools. The first two of five syllabus strands will be introduced for incoming first year and fifth year students.

This development will see much greater emphasis being placed on student understanding of mathematics concepts, with increased use of contexts and applications that will enable students to relate mathematics to everyday experience.

The initiative will also focus on developing students’ problem-solving skills. In parallel with changes in curriculum, there will be changes in the way mathematics is assessed, to reflect the different emphasis on understanding and skills in the teaching and learning of mathematics.

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