Text size

A victim of the unfair anomaly in Leaving Cert oral Irish

April 24, 2012


There is an extraordinary anomaly in the marking of the new Leaving Cert Irish oral examination.

While students are examined and marked at different levels for the written exam, all students apart from foundation level are examined and marked at the same level for the oral.

This leaves my daughter in a real bind about which level to take for the Leaving Cert.

She has excellent spoken Irish and loves the language. She has been to the Gaeltacht over the years and made the most of the opportunity. She should do very well in her oral exam, now worth 40 per cent of the overall mark, but she has a reading difficulty that affects her performance in written exams, especially those with long, unseen reading-comprehension texts and essays.

Her marks for reading and written work are always quite average, but oral work is always above average.

Now she has to gamble with the extraordinary anomaly in the system. The Leaving Certificate Irish oral is a common assessment for higher and ordinary-level candidates.

The examiner should not know, and must not ask, which level the student is doing.

All higher- and lower-level students must prepare the same 20 picture sequences, the same poetry and the same range of conversation topics.

They will all be assessed in the same manner and marked with the same marking scheme, with no rebalancing or calibration of marks for the different levels.

An A1 at higher level is worth 100 CAO points. An A1 at ordinary level is worth 60 points.

It follows that the same oral is worth significantly more at higher level than at ordinary level.

At higher level it is worth 40 CAO points (40 per cent of 100 points), but at ordinary level it is only worth 24 points (40 per cent of 60 points).

This is not the case for the other languages at Leaving Certificate, as there is differentiation between higher and ordinary level at the final marking stage.

What should my daughter do? Should she continue at higher level and hope to do very well in her oral (getting the extra points this will provide even though it’s the same exam for both levels) and hope to get through the two written papers?

Or should she drop to ordinary level, where she will probably do better in her written exam but will get fewer CAO points for her strong oral performance?

Her case, I acknowledge, is individual, but there must be others caught in the same unfair situation. Surely this system is unjust for all the ordinary-level students who do the same oral exam as their higher-level counterparts but get fewer CAO points for their efforts.

Either way it’s a gamble for her as the student, but for me, as the parent, I cannot understand how this inequality and discrimination is allowed to exist in our supposedly equitable exam system.

As there is already a foundation-level oral, why is there not a higher- and an ordinary-level oral – or, at least, a different marking scheme for each level?

Ní thuigim!

This column is designed to give a voice to those within the education system wish to speak out anonymously. Contributions are welcome. Email sflynn@irishtimes.com.