The Irish Second Level Students’ Union (ISSU) has said that state exams may not proceed as planned this year due to Covid-related disruption.
Under the current plans, students appearing for the 2022 state examinations will see adjustments and more options in their examination papers keeping in mind the impact of the pandemic on education in the last two years.
There will also be two sets of Leaving CERT exams during the summer for those who are ill with COVID-19 or are in isolation.
However, the union representing the second level students has called the decision to go ahead with the traditional examinations as “absolute disregard for the best interests of the students”.
ISSU President Emir Neville said this year’s test group of students “has been very vocal about the disruption that is taking place in and out of the classroom”.
“No online tuition is offered to those in isolation, and students have lost class time in 2021 and 2020 as a result of school closures,” she said.
“There is no way to assess these students with the traditional Leaving Certificate. We are calling upon the education minister to heed the voice of the students and review the decision of state examinations for 2022.”
ISSU Education Officer Jack McGinn acknowledged the concern that some students in this Leaving Certificate group did not complete the Junior Certificate, because of the use of junior-cycle data to standardize estimated grades over the past two years.
“However,” he added, “in light of the circumstances, we must put students first because it is their future that will be affected.”
The union is surveying students on the matter, with provisional results showing a clear side towards a hybrid model, a choice between projected grades or appearing for exams.
The statement is a significant development on a building issue, with Labor and Sinn Féin already calling for a re-introduction of the hybrid model.
Paul Krone, director of the National Association of Principles and Deputy Principals, said this year’s exams need to be a little extra to overcome the Covid disruption.
“We don’t know exactly what this should look like, or what is possible, but what we are saying is that we should put students first,” he said.
Professor Pol Docharteg, Vice President of NUI Galway, has said, however, that the Hybrid Leaving Cert system created inequalities and was in favor of students appearing for the traditional exam this year.
While he understood and sympathized with the pressure of Leaving Certificate students, he said that recognized grades have resulted in inflation, which has increased marks for courses.
Speaking on RTÉ Radio’s Morning Ireland, Professor Docharteigh said six times more students scored 600 last year than in the previous two years, leading to a lottery for final places at the university.
He said it was “extremely unfair” if some students achieved results through challenging themselves to sit the test, but lost because someone else’s teacher said they were too good, he said.
“I think deeply problematic is the idea that one student gets the same marks as another student based on two different methods.”
Efforts must now be made to return to some sort of pre-2020 normality and treat the years 2020 and 2021 as exceptional years as the alternative was to tell those who had a Leaving Certificate before the pandemic that they would be permanently deprived, Prof Docharteg said.
He said that he was not against the reform of the Leaving Certificate system, but it should be on the basis that the experience is equal for all.
The Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI) and the Association of Secondary Teachers in Ireland (ASTI) have both stated that they will only support traditional, externally assessed examinations.
On Monday, TUI said there was no justification for giving additional options to students as schools are open throughout this academic year.
Meanwhile, ASTI said speculation about the use of previous one-time grading procedures during the pandemic is “unhelpful”.
The education department said it is “aware of the disruption” experienced by students who are about to take their leaving certificate exams in 2022.
“These are challenging times for society as a whole, and it is acknowledged that the impact of the Omicron virus means that some students and teachers cannot currently attend school,” a spokesperson said.
However, the department said that adjustments to the assessment regime for the 2022 Leaving Certificate – including the increased option – were designed keeping in mind the learning disruptions in the previous year, “as well as to provide for some potential disruption in 2021/22″. For”.
The department will continue to work on all matters related to Leaving Certificate 2022 with all the partners in education.