Off the points

According to last weekend’s Sunday Independent, the new Irish Minister for Education, Ruairi Quinn TD, plans to ‘axe the points race by 2014.’ I would wholly welcome the general intent, but I do need to point out (maybe to the Sunday Independent rather than the Minister, who will know this well enough) that the Minister cannot ‘axe’ the points system, as it is not his property. The only ones who can do that are the universities themselves, as owners of the Central Applications Office (CAO). Furthermore the Independent‘s article suggests that the universities have been complaining about the points system. Not so. I have, but I don’t know of many others in the higher education system.

However, the reported demand by the Minister to the universities to come up with an appropriate replacement is absolutely welcome. I have been saying for a long time that the points system distorts the Leaving Certificate curriculum and encourages the wrong learning methods, and furthermore it pushes young people into the wrong careers. In the interests of education reform it is now an urgent priority that the points system should go. As I have suggested previously, a lottery for all those who have met the minimum subject-specific entry requirements would be far preferable to the existing system, and would have the effect of distributing students between courses far more appropriately.

This is a good move by the Minister. The universities need to respond positively and quickly.

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9 Comments on “Off the points”

  1. Trevor Hickey Says:

    Not the lottery idea again! I strongly disagree (again). There has to be some way of ensuring that places on particular courses can be awarded on merit. To think a student might not be able to pursue the career of their choice because they didn’t win a lottery is ridiculous.

    • Vincent Says:

      Merit= Chequebook. For when the professions were opened in the UK from the 20’s onwards. And as what has happened here the wealthy pushed the constriction further on by demanding non-pay internships. Still those Meritorious idiots had their arses handed to them by those they considered as lesser mortals and in some cases by those they did not see as human at all.

    • Vincent has answered it for me. The points have nothing to do with merit. But more seriously still, they create a kind of bogus market in courses and careers, with a hugely anti-social and anti-economy impact.

  2. Al Says:

    Wouldnt it be better to seperate the Leaving Cert from the third level entrance mechanism?
    If so seperated, isnt the LC the issue that needs more focus?
    Not that this isnt going on…
    I suppose we can demand the sequence in which things are dealt with meets our whims…

  3. Christophe Says:

    Personally I think that there is not much wrong with the point system but that nearly everything is wrong with the Leaving Cert exams.

    I am tired of people moaning about the points race, which is a real problem, without pointing out to the most obvious problem that is the way the exams are written.

    The exams are too predictable, they are too long, they cover everything, they can be prepared in advance, the questions are formulaic : in brief, to do well you need grinds.

    Comparison of exam style in other EU countries bear this point : in Germany and France the most difficult exam in Math at the same level is 2 hours 30 minutes with challenging questions that require understanding to pass, and talent to do well. Compare that to the Irish exam!

    The English exam relies on prepared study (Hamlet) …

    Formulaic questions are good at foundation level but not at ordinary nor higher level for any subject.

    The leaving cert exams are mind numbing not challenging as they should be.

    They are written by people who once too excelled at this kind of exams and, unsurprisingly perhaps, do not see anything wrong with it.

    I find the point system fair and it should not be changed; but for flip sake change the exams!


    • Ernie Ball Says:

      They are written by people who once too excelled at this kind of exams and, unsurprisingly perhaps, do not see anything wrong with it.

      One suspects that this is also true of some of the university presidents.

    • Al Says:

      You have something there.
      There seems to be an implicit genuflection to tradition within the LC, and a curriculum that serves a cannon or scripture.
      Obey the system rather than think anew…..

  4. Perry Share Says:

    There may be numerous problems with the points system, but it is relatively efficient. If Ruairi Quinn or anyone else wants to bring in aptitude tests, interviews, personal statements, portfolios, matriculation exams, auditions – or even lotteries, show me where the additional resources to conduct these activities are hidden.

    To conduct about a hundred interviews in our place for ‘non-standard’ applicants consumes about 50 hours of academics’ time, (at least) an equal amount of administrative time, and a lot of rooms in the institute. Multiply that by xxxx and you begin to get the picture! Plus it has a significant impact on the teaching of the students already in the system.

    • Perry Share Says:

      Of course you could outsource all this activity to a private entity, that would administer the process and charge all applicants a fee for the service. You might locate it somewhere like Galway . . .

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