Seeing as the Leaving Cert results come out today, we're looking back to an interview on Today with Sean O'Rourke discussing what the exams were originally for.
Most of us have been there, the stress, the expectation, the feeling that the rest of your life depends on this crucial event occurring over a few weeks during one summer of your late teens.
The Leaving Certificate. An Irish cultural phenomenon and a teenage rite of passage that has, according to two educational experts, now morphed into something it was never intended to be.
Sean Byrne, Lecturer in Economics at Dublin Institute of Technology, and Brian Mooney, Career Guidance Counsellor and Irish Times Education Columnist, were united in their view that the transition from leaving cert to third level has become far too automatic for many. Third level is not necessarily for everybody, but the expectation seems to be placed on everybody’s shoulders.
The problem is that the leaving certificate has become an entrance exam for third level. It was never intended for that. We are one of the few countries without aptitude tests, interviews, and so on, for courses. Apart from a few areas like architecture and music, your points are the only thing that get you in.
In Ireland, 60% of school leavers enter third level education. In Germany, that figure is 45%, while 40% take up apprenticeships. However, Germany defines apprenticeships far more widely than we do. Germany’s youth unemployment rate is 5%. Poland's is 20%.
"The German model, they have a dual structure where people go in at a practical level and they go in at an academic level. But in Ireland, we seem to all want all of our kids at an academic level. We need a more balanced approach."
Whether this amounts to cultural snobbery (it does, according to Brian) or simply a consequence of how the system is designed is a matter for discussion. But thankfully, according to our guests, new avenues are being explored and we are finally gaining more appreciation of the value of the apprenticeship approach.
To hear the full interview from Today with Sean O’Rourke, listen above.