Dáil Éireann - Volume 399 - 07 June, 1990

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Junior Certificate Examination.

2. Mr. J. Bruton asked the Minister for Education her views on each of the recommendations made to her on the junior certificate examination by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment in their report of January 1990.

Mrs. O'Rourke: In the document The Junior Certificate Examination: Recommendations to the Minister for Education [1650] the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment invited all those who have views on the recommendations to submit them to the council by 30 April 1990. The recommendations may, therefore, be regarded as part of the consultative process before final views are conveyed to me by the council.

This consultative process has not precluded consideration of the various recommendations by my Department in cases where early decisions were required and this process is at present ongoing. I have already conveyed to school authorities my decision that an aural test in Irish will form part of the junior certificate examination in 1992. In relation to oral tests, my Department have written to the teacher and managerial associations proposing discussions on the council's recommendations in this regard.

When the implications of the various other recommendations have been considered in the light of the council's final views and those of the interested parties who are still putting them forward, I will be in a position to convey decisions on the various issues.

Mr. J. Bruton: Was the Minister's decision with regard to an aural test for Irish made in advance of the conclusion of the period set for the consultative process and, further, why did the Minister choose, in advance of making a decision on all the recommendations, to make a decision on one of them? Could I ask her further if she accepts that decisions in this matter are urgent in the sense that students who will be sitting examinations for the junior certificate in 1992 — the date of implementation of these recommendations — are about to enter the second of their three years of study towards that examination? It is unfair to them that they do not know, now that they are almost half way through the course, on what basis they will be examined.

Mrs. O'Rourke: They have just completed one year of a three year course — that means they are one-third of the way [1651] through the course. The Deputy asked if I had conveyed my decision about the aural and oral examinations prior to the end of the consultative process. The consultative process is ongoing and a definitive date has not been given as to its completion. All the interested parties were asked to submit their views on various matters by 30 April and I think it was in early May that I made the recommendation — I have the letter here.

Mr. J. Bruton: The Minister is not sure.

Mrs. O'Rourke: Yes, I am quite sure. It was 18 May 1990. The reason I gave the decision on the aural and oral examinations so quickly is that it was intimated to me that they are items on which the various interested parties wanted to hear my views. Everybody is of the opinion that people who study languages should undergo aural and oral examinations because that is the bed rock on which they are built. I made my decision and conveyed it quickly because that seemed sensible. The other matters are being considered by the NCCA, the interested parties and myself. I assure the Deputy that there will certainly be no shortchanging of young people sitting examinations. The NCCA and all the bodies affiliated to them take great care in what they are doing.

Mr. J. Bruton: Would the Minister agree that it is important that people sitting the junior certificate in 1992 know, in respect of history, geography and business studies, whether they will get 20 per cent of the marks for a certain project and also, in respect of home economics and science, whether a measure of the marks will be given as a result of teacher assessment in the school? If that is the case, the teachers would have to prepare themselves for those arrangements. The second year of the three year course will begin in September and, if assessments are to be taken into account, preparation must start now. Therefore, the Minister has little time within which to make decisions.

[1652] Mrs. O'Rourke: I am glad the Deputy has changed his mind in that the pupils are one-third of the way through the course rather than half way through it. The question he asked is a reasonable one but has many implications. As we all know, there are clear divisions in the teachers' unions between those who wish to see a continuation of the examination process as we know it and those who favour assessment procedures. These matters are ones that should not be lightly treated. The financial implications is one matter which we can consider in its entirety but there are also many other issues and parental, managerial and union interests to be considered. This is a matter in which I am very interested and one that I want to see properly addressed. I agree with the Deputy that ideas on matters such as this would need to be formalised in a reasonable way and reasonably quickly but that would also need to be done with very full consultation. That is in process.