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Numbers taking Junior Cert oral Irish test double

August 31, 2010

The number of students who did oral Irish tests for this year’s Junior Certificate has more than doubled since last year and quadrupled since 2006, despite a union ban on teachers marking their own students.

Marks for the optional Junior Certificate oral doubled to 40% of the total for those who took it in June, but numbers were expected to be small.
Unlike the Leaving Certificate, the State Examinations Commission (SEC) does not send out teachers from other schools to assess students’ language skills.

Instead, a school-based assessment must be carried out and the marks are then notified to the SEC, but the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI) and Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI) forbade their members from co-operation.
In previous years, only around 300 students at a dozen schools presented marks to the SEC from the oral exam, but figures obtained by the Irish Examiner suggest the new marking scheme has incentivised more schools to do the non-compulsory oral Irish test. The numbers rose to 22 schools in 2008 (the year after the increased marks were announced) and to 24 last year, when 725 students did the test.

But, with 40% of the Junior Certificate Irish marks available for it this year, provisional SEC figures show almost 1,700 students getting their results next month took an oral Irish exam. The 54 schools concerned are across the different sectors in which members of both second level teacher unions work, although it is unclear if the tests were done by the students’ own teachers or by others brought in from outside.

“We are aware that management at a small number of schools were making arrangements for some form of external assessment in Junior Certificate Irish. We remain opposed to teachers assessing their own students because of possible complications to their classroom relations and undermining of the exam system’s transparency and objectivity,” an ASTI spokesperson said.
While around one-third of this year’s Junior Certificate students will sit the first exam with increased marks for oral Irish in the 2012 Leaving Certificate, most will go into transition year.

The Irish Examiner revealed yesterday that a review of the controversial increase of marks in Leaving Certificate Irish for the compulsory oral test from 2012 has been ordered by Education Minister Mary Coughlan, even though schools are beginning to teach students the revised syllabus this week. Groups representing all-Irish schools which oppose the changes said that, rather than a review, proper research and a pilot programme in some schools should take place to assess the likely impacts.

Irish Examiner – Niall Murray
31 Lúnasa 2010