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Reformed Leaving Cert subjects less stressful for students, Foley says

January 26, 2024

Original Article:

Reforms to Leaving Cert subjects, including biology, chemistry, and physics, will allow students to showcase their ability through continuous assessments and reduce exam stress, Education Minister Norma Foley has said.

Six Leaving Cert subjects have been reviewed and updated, including Arabic, Latin, and Ancient Greek, all of which have now gone out for public consultation.

It is part of a wider redevelopment of the Leaving Cert, with the first tranche of new and revised subjects being introduced in schools from 2025.

There are nine subjects in the first grouping, including those out for consultation and business.

There will also be two new subjects — drama, film and theatre studies, and climate action and sustainable development — which will be rolled out on a phased basis to a network of schools in 2025.

Each of the new and revised subjects will incorporate additional assessment components that are not a traditional written examination.

These assessments will be worth a minimum of 40% of the available marks and will be externally assessed by the State Examinations Commission.

“This is another very positive step forward in terms of the new-style Leaving Certificate that our students will experience from September 2025,” Ms Foley said.

She added the new components would reduce stress among students in senior cycle, who will have the opportunity “to maximise the showcasing of their talents”.

“Student experience is at the heart of the redevelopment. I want students to display their learnings and talents at senior cycle, outside of the exam hall and beyond a terminal exam,” she said.

More subjects will be introduced to the curriculum for all schools in 2026, including English, geography, accounting, construction studies, and engineering.

Ms Foley said the consultation, which is a “major milestone” in the senior cycle redevelopment, will be open until February 23.

The National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) has also contacted schools to participate in focus groups involving teachers, students, and school leaders.

Artificial intelligence

Meanwhile, Ms Foley said artificial intelligence (AI) was an “extraordinary opportunity” for education, but she acknowledged the challenges it poses to teachers.

“And it is for that reason in terms of the Leaving cycle redevelopment that we have commissioned the State Examinations Commission to undertake a body of work in terms of how best we can harness it for education and also armour ourselves against challenges,” she said.

Some Leaving Cert project guidelines, including history, have acknowledged the use of AI, saying it must be cited if used for research purposes.

However, teachers have argued they are ill-prepared for AI systems such as ChatGPT and how to spot their use.

Ms Foley said there “absolutely” had been guidance on how it could be used in the classroom.

“But there is a bigger body of work also ongoing,” she said adding other Government departments were carrying out similar work.

“There are enormous opportunities when it comes to AI, but there are challenges,” she said.


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