Educating Vitae




From top: Ming Flannely (left) and Aisling Gregg after receiving their Leaving Cert results in Loreto College, Dublin yesterday; Dan Boyle

We should be bringing an end to the idea that The Leaving Certificate is an ending to a type of education, or to education itself.

Dan Boyle writes:

The Leaving Certificate is a peculiarly Irish construction. Our equivalent of the US High School diploma, England’s A levels or France’s Baccalaureate. Its title, its conjugation of the verb ‘to leave’, implies an away with you attitude to those taking part.

At its most benign it’s about the leaving of second level schooling. With this, and because of grade inflation, there is the expectation that this should be followed by third level education.

Once The Leaving was the ticket into the world of work. There are a few opportunities now that are open for our young people at this stage of their life.

For much of the history of this State The Leaving took on a literal definition, as ten of thousands saw it as a rite of passage before leaving the country.

We badly need to look at what The Leaving of today is about. Skills can and should be acquired before The Leaving, and without it. What we used to call ‘trades’ are skills that should be reinstated into the education and training hierarchy.

My What If experience happened when I was 17 years old. I took a civil service exam for the then Department of Post and Telegraphs. The job was called, I think, a Telegraphic Technician. I passed and was offered a job at a very attractive starting wage of 100 punts per week.

I was all on for taking it but the Ma said no. I had to do The Leaving. Had I taken the position I imagine I would have had a less complicated, more secure, though less exciting life. Then again I may have fallen off the top of a pole.

When I was 18 I chose the local Regional Technical College (precursors of today’s Institutes of Technology) over an Arts course. Then you were also required to do a Matriculation exam to gain access to university. The two exams could be combined to produce the best result.

There is something to be said of going back to adapt what we used to do. We should gain access to third level through aptitude tests that better measure skills and knowledge, rather than the ability to regurgitate.

If third level is the ultimate destination, for most, should it be immediate? Informally, over the years, some have adopted the American habit of taking a year out. It isn’t a bad idea. Get the head straight. Learn about life as it actually is. Get a job.

I’m thinking that we should make it a requirement that no one should enter university directly from second level without a 12 month interval.

The real end we should be bringing an end to is this idea that The Leaving is an ending to a type of education, or to education itself. Life long education isn’t something that we should buy into to dip in and out of. It’s an expectation that should be required of all of us.

I was fortunate to be accepted on a Masters programme at University College Cork. I was given a place after my life/work experiences were taken into account over my previous academic endeavours. This practice seems to have only a toehold in Irish academic decision making. It should become an essential part of such decision making.

So, in summary, The Leaving isn’t an end in itself. It isn’t even an end to education. Life is what’s left.

Dan Boyle is a former Green Party TD and Senator. Follow Dan on Twitter: @sendboyle

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66 thoughts on “Educating Vitae

  1. Dόn 'The Unstoppable Force' Pídgéόní

    “I’m thinking that we should make it a requirement that no one should enter university directly from second level without a 12 month interval.”

    That’s just silly. Yes, coming back to HE after time out makes you more appreciative of the opportunities but then HE also gives you opportunities and life experience as well, it’s not all book-learning.

    “It should become an essential part of such decision making.” It generally is at Masters level – more about why you want to do the Masters then what mark you got on an exam when you were 17.

    “The Leaving is an ending to a type of education, or to education itself.”
    That makes no sense if your argument then sits on people needing time out before going onto uni.

  2. Tish Mahorey

    Is the ‘Jump in the Air’ photo still a thing?

    Along with the ‘Stern Look Arms Folded Looking Down on You’ photo for all Irish business articles.

    1. mildred st. meadowlark

      Yes. Along with the models wearing nothing but a bikini and a large piece of cardboard standing next to a Z-list celeb promoting something.

      1. Mikeyfex

        Feet together, arms stiff by your sides – band
        As above, but lean back into a stress position – high fashion

    2. DubLoony

      Not forgetting the politician in a suit with a hard hat pointing to the distance with guy with paper architect plans shows him stuff classic.

  3. Tish Mahorey

    Rote learning is useless if you want a nation of free thinkers who can think creatively.

    Rote learning is responsible for sheep-like populace who vote in the same old crooks every generation and watch the Late Late out of a sense of tradition and duty, like going to Mass even though you don’t believe.

    The primary and secondary education system needs a massive overhaul in order to change the mindset of Irish people and break free of the dependency culture whereby the majority are like children who end up being used by the a very small minority of dishonest crooks.

    1. jambon

      True, why aren’t we teaching environmental Intelligence? Emotional intelligence? Conflict resolution? … oh yeah, that would mean a population in control of its own destiny and we couldn’t have that now.

    2. Turgenev

      Rote learning – learning by heart – is unfortunately almost completely gone. It’s really good for your mind and your memory and your discipline to learn reams of poetry by heart.

      Learning in the way it’s done in Irish schools, though, yep. Thousands of pupils who come out of school and can’t give directions to a French tourist after six years of learning French, and can’t hold a literate conversation in Irish after 12 years of learning Irish, and can’t calculate the unit price of a pack of 12 toilet rolls after 14 years of learning maths. We need a more practical approach. And we need to use the knowledge of the immigrants who’ve come in – get some Poles to set up craft apprenticeships, for instance.

      1. Spaghetti Hoop

        Just because the woman in my local post office needed a calculator for the price of ten stamps doesn’t mean that the education system is wrong. She may not have bothered at Maths.

    3. rotide

      TIsh came though the same system, but luckily he has a natural high intelligence, gifting him the free thought and critical analysis he needs to shoot those social issue fishes in barells.

          1. Catherine McEntee

            @ Tish

            Rotide is Tony, there couldn’t be two cantankerous old turds on here commenting in unison, surely?

          2. rotide

            Sorry to disapoint, this is the only name I’ve posted under apart from a single comment or two with obvious joke nickname.

            If only that was the case for everyone, Eh Mr T?

          3. Nigel

            This is ironic because the difference between rotide and Tony is the difference between someone you disagree with who is an incisive critical thinker and someone you disagree with who is not. You could use them as examples to illustrate a textbook on the subject.

      1. Tish Mahorey

        No Rotide.

        I had a well travelled and intelligent Father and an intelligent, compassionate Mother who had a love of English.

        My siblings and I inherited the freedom that a curious mind brings and the insight and learning of patient observation.

        1. rotide

          This is too good.

          Still didn’t manage to break into advertising though eh? Those yearly reports won’t design themselves though

          1. Dόn 'The Unstoppable Force' Pídgéόní

            Ah Mr T, always so keen to tell everyone what a star he was. You kinda miss that.

        2. Catherine McEntee

          @ Nigel

          Critical being the operative word – your perception is very different to mine. R is cuttingly critical and highly insulting on any thread related to Cynthia Owen’s ongoing case, I find this behaviour so very low and hurtful to her and her family – he’s the same whenever Mary Boyle’s case is brought up, making negative comments about Gemma O’D and Bodger. Ask yourself if this is normal behaviour, when others are doing all they can to obtain justice for Cynthia, her little daughter and son and Mary Boyle and her family.

          T was so dismissive of peadophile rings, child abduction and their murder in this country yesterday and ignorant and cantanketous – if they’re different people I’d be surprised, it’s nothing to me. Whether they’re one or two people, he/they are either in the gardai or politics and as crooked and depraved as the day is long.

    4. pedeyw

      Rote learning is however important if you want say Doctors, Lawyers and Engineers to be competent at their jobs before they start getting creative.

  4. DubLoony

    My sanity is restored, can safely say I disagree with Dan Boyle again.
    Its an end to compulsory education, an end to the grind of leaving cert horse race. Its leaving all that behind.

    Anything anyone does afterwards will be a choice. The choice and range are enormous these days.
    As for the 12 month gap – not everyone can afford a gap year, many want to go ahead with whatever those choices are.

    Trades are still there, there are technical schools that still specialise in the necessary subjects. But we generally associate trades with construction sector. It has now been expanded to include 60 areas from IT, banking, food and other areas.

    Lifelong learning is a must, the idea that a person trains in one thing and stays with that for 40 years is well & truly over.

    1. Dan Boyle

      That’s not disagreeing that’s quibbling about emphasis. I’m talking trends not absolutes. I’m not presenting a mathematical theorem.

      1. DubLoony

        the trends is that more kids are getting he help they need in primary school with SNAs so that none of them leave primary level unable to read.
        In secondary school, more students are completing the Leaving Cert & not dropping out early.

        In time we’ll see the effects but hopefully, it’ll mean fewer teens in junior prison, fewer adults in Mountjoy, people able to deal with the complexities of modern life and poor, illiterate people not dying on average 20 years younger than their peers.

  5. Andyourpointiswhatexactly?

    Heh. RTC. Yeh dope.

    In the school I went to, they wouldn’t entertain chat about anyone going to an RTC. Coz, like, they were for dopes. Y’know, like the Group Cert.

  6. Frida

    Everyone knows the LC is a horrible exam to inflict on young people whose brains are still developing. But in a country as corrupt as Ireland, I can’t see any fair alternative.

    1. Spaghetti Hoop

      Jesus it isn’t that bad. Exams are meant to test your knowledge and discipline you to revise. And if you’ve bothered at school and taken at least seven subjects then you have pretty well-rounded general education.

  7. J

    The media obession with the students that scored 9 A1s,10 A1s , 11 A1s is positively nauseating. It was 7 A1s back in my time , but that number continues to creep up every year. There should be a ban on the publishing of results and league tables .The focus should be an educational systmen that both challenges and embraces the needs of all students, rather than this moronic fetishing of bloody points.

      1. Andyourpointiswhatexactly?

        They were a thick crop this year. Nobody got 9 A1s.
        I liked the fact the girl from Cork who got 8 A1s was heading off to Mary I to do teaching. She didn’t feel it was a “waste” of her points.

    1. pedeyw

      Well since 600 is the max you can use, getting 9 A1s doen’t do you much good other than maybe a slightly broader choice of 3rd level courses )though I’d imagine most doing 9 subjects probably have a fair idea of what thy want to study). I can’t think of a fairer way of doing it than anonymous points and CAO number.

  8. Mourinho

    It’s funny that trades are mentioned.
    The local seminary here never taught woodwork or metalwork. (Above that sort of thing.)
    It’s now introducing metalwork for the first time because a local engineering firm with massive expansion plans asked for it.

  9. rory

    Hi Dan.
    I would be very appreciative if you could cover the subject of climate change more often in your weekly contributions to Broadsheet.

    1. Tony

      Danny Healy Rae is covering it in another thread. Apparently the worst of it has passed so no need to panic.

  10. Frilly Keane

    Say what ya like about the Leaving
    The exam hall is the only way to test students

    At any level

    1. Spaghetti Hoop

      There’s a bit of ‘OMG the leaving’ amongst students every year. Yes it’s a stressful time but it’s all worth it. If one can sip a pint ten years later and quote Yeats or talk about glaciation or calculus then the curriculum has provided one with a fairly decent general education.

  11. rotide

    At least 20 comments in and no-one has managed to equate the level and state of education in this country to Dan’s time in power with the greens?

    Must have been a SJW drinking session last night and the lads are hungover.

      1. mildred st. meadowlark

        Well I mean I’m sure we could rile up the usual mob but I quite like the peace and quiet here this morning.

  12. fluffybiscuits

    Ireland falls down with no critical thinking aspect as the French do in their Bac. They learn to question everything which means they are always scrutinising govt policy for what its worth. Ireland is still behind the times with the education system – nowdays its all about building trades, finance, banking, languages and coding and maybe the Leaving Cert should reflect this. Creating a modern new syllabus and change history to Pre 19th C history and contemporary history after Junior. Young people are not engaged by school.

    If people do not get their desired requirements they can work/PLC/Travel/Vacant places so there are options but for once I think Dan is spot on.

    If you do terribly bad in the leaving there is always the option to write opinion pieces for the

  13. Tish Mahorey

    I know a few professionals who have gone to learn trades because they feel it was always what they naturally wanted to do after school but they were pushed into University by parents.

    We need good carpenters, metal workers, sparks, etc. They can be hugely rewarding jobs both financially and in the sense of accomplishment they bring. Every carpenter I know is very chilled and content.

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