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Make Irish optional and cut junior cycle, say students

July 12, 2011

THE JUNIOR cycle at secondary school should be cut from three years to two, and the only compulsory subjects should be English and maths, according to young people asked about the future of the cycle.

A report on the consultation process and its conclusions was published by Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn and Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald yesterday.

Some 88 young people aged from 12 to 18 from around the State were consulted in a day-long forum in Dublin last November.

Asked what changes they would make if they were minister for education for a day, the young people said they would change the junior cycle to two years, change the senior cycle to three years, have fewer exams and a wider range of subjects.

They would also place more emphasis on practical subjects and social and life skills, encourage new teaching methods, assess teachers more effectively and consult students more.

The older students in the consultation said they would have liked “taster” subjects in their first year of the junior cycle, saying it would give them the opportunity to try subjects for about six to eight weeks to see if they liked them and those teaching them.

“Many felt the role of teachers was most important. Often students liked a subject because of who was teaching it or how it was being taught.”

Many also felt there could be improvements to the way several subjects were presented and taught, including physical education, religion, science and social, personal and health education.

Mr Quinn said the report would have an impact on policy decisions in education.

“I believe that we all learn most effectively when we experience issues for ourselves, through investigation and research, project and practical work and group discussion,” he said.

“These are skills for independent learning which will serve us well over a lifetime.”

He added that reforms of the junior and senior cycles at secondary were already under way.

“If the reforms go ahead as they are currently envisaged, 50 per cent of the work at Junior Certificate [level] will be examined through continuous assessment of their portfolios.”

Ms Fitzgerald described as “interesting” the finding that the majority of young people did not want Irish to be a compulsory subject.

“What’s really important is to ask young people, to hear their views and to involve them.”

Irish Times