Posted on 15-06-2008
Filed Under (Creativity, Examination) by gashed

Having recently had the opportunity of observing a student using a laptop for his Junior Certificate, it was again obvious the advances the integration of technology into the classroom would bring.  The student completed most exams on computer, but those that required filling in the boxes or blanks, he wrote.  It was evident that they were much more comfortable when using the computer, rather than a pen and paper.  There was much more fluency of expression and they could focus fully on the answer rather than the technique required to record it.  I have no doubt that had the Department of Education provided the exam papers in electronic form, appropriately formatted so the student could type the answers, they would have done much better in the fill in the blank exams. Read the rest of this entry »

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Posted on 04-06-2008
Filed Under (Examination) by gashed

At the moment I am reading for the JC; essentially sitting in a room and reading the exam paper to a student.  This must be costing the Dept of Education a fortune – in our school we have about 18 such persons employed.
Is there not a technological solution; could the department not give students entitled to a reader a iPod with the paper recorded.  When the student wants the question read they simply listen to the appropriate track.  At the end of the exam the iPod is handed up.  The student could stay in the main exam hall, and there would be no need for all these extra readers to be employed.
Would this be easier and cheaper?

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Posted on 24-08-2007
Filed Under (Examination) by gashed

So, it’s the time of the year where the Leaving Certificate results are released.  It is these results that determine admission to 3rd level.  The student’s points are determined from the results of their 6 best subjects, the maximum on each being 100 points.  The students have previously selected the course they wish to attend and those with the highest points are accepted.  While the points required for each course depends both on the number of places available and the number of students applying; they give an idea of the level of interest in the various courses on offer.  This year the science courses showed a decrease in the number of points required, which can be interpreted in a decrease in interest in careers in science.  For law, medicine and other professional qualifications the points increased or remained high.  Nursing points increased above 500 for the first time (600 is the maximum number of points attainable).  Universities are always alarmed when the points for their courses starts dropping, not only does it mean that the academic standard of student attending may be declining, but also because future students will be loath to apply for courses with a points cut-off below what they expect to get.  Students refer to this as ‘wasting points’.
The rationale behind student’s choice of courses has always been difficult to work out.  Location still plays a big role; students in university cities rarely travel to attend colleges elsewhere.  Choices are almost invariable made with reference to where they perceive employment to be, but they are reluctant to choose courses where the points are well below their level.  David McWilliams refers to this in his article published in the Irish Independent.  He notes that many of the corporate employment opportunities arising from the high point courses may be comparable to the factory line jobs of previous times; employees lack autonomy, the jobs can lack variety, lack creativity and limited potential for professional growth and satisfaction.  They also are financially less desirable than those working in trades.
The government is concerned about the lack of interest in science and technology in second level students.  The reform of the Junior Certificate syllabus may result in more students taking science subjects at senior level, and subsequently third level.  I would also suggest that the government before introducing any changes to the points system or science at second level, first research carefully the rationale that students use to determine their choices for third level courses.

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(1) Comment   
Posted on 06-08-2007
Filed Under (Examination, teaching) by gashed

The Irish Independent reports on the government’s decision to limit the points required for entry into medicine to 450 points (Universities are looking to alter this to 480 points).  Irish students complete a Leaving Certificate examination at the end of their 2 year senior cycle, generally they sit 7 subject exams, 6 of which they use to matriculate.  If the subjects are taken at honours level any percentage over 90% is called an A1 and is awarded 100 points.  Lower percentages result in lower points.  The points of 6 subjects are added together to form an overall points total.  The students apply for entry onto a college course and those with the highest points are accepted.This ‘points race’ has placed tremendous pressure on these students; however with the expanded range of 3rd level courses, the increase in the number of places and the more flexible routes (often more expensive) into courses this pressure has been relieved for many students.  The exception is the medical courses.  Caps on the number of medical places on offer mean there is still a extremely high points requirement for these courses.  The question has often been asked does obtaining 600 points mean you are better suited to be a doctor than someone with 560 points.  The government has responded by looking to allow anyone with over 450 points to sit a separate aptitude test to determine who should gain access to these courses.It is not clear to me how extra examinations will relieve pressure on students.  Certainly it is good news for grind schools as students will flock to be prepared for these tests.  Is a measure of IQ in the form of these tests a good barometer to determine who is best equipped to become a doctor or dentist?  What does this say about our Leaving Certificate or education system that it does not allow us to select students that have the potential to become doctors?  Why is a combined score of IQ and LC be preferably to LC alone?  Is there not a concern that IQ tests have a reputation of being socially exclusive?  Does this evaluation of suitability look at the crucial traits required to be a great doctor; empathy, communication, decisiveness etc?  Are we just following the

UK and

Australia for no particular reason? 

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