Director, National Association of Principals and Deputies (NAPD)
We must reflect on what has not worked in the past rather than repeat mistakes in order to reform the education sector in Ireland.
Carpe diem is a Latin aphorism, usually translated as “seize the day”, taken from book one of the Roman poet Horace’s work Odes (23 BC). The ode says that the future is unforeseen and that one should not leave to chance future happenings, but rather one should do all one can today to make one’s own future better.
When we put this into the context of Senior Cycle reform, I often think of the old saying “If we do what we’ve always done, we’ll get what we’ve always gotten!” So what have we?
Untold stress on students
We have secondary level education that is determined by two extremely suffocating factors – the Leaving Certificate terminal exams and the current entry process into Third level. What do we get as a result? Overly anxious students that return to rote learning and set aside the skills and value-based education they have enjoyed for three or four years. We also get high drop rates at Third level in particular courses due to ‘points elitism’ rather than students being appropriately placed.
If we do what we’ve always done, we’ll get what we’ve always gotten.
In 2016, the UN Committee on the Rights of Children made a very strong recommendation to our State that the Leaving Certificate needed reform. The Committee felt, following a meeting with young people from Ireland, that the Leaving Cert process placed a disproportionate level of mental stress on the young people undertaking that terminal exam.
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Providing appropriate experiences
The rhetoric that second level educations’ sole purpose is to prepare students for university or working life seems short sighted. The terminal exam based on memory is not sufficient in preparing students either. Second level education should be just that, second level education – a value based and skills driven experience that is appropriate to our students, their age, needs and development.
Let’s not go backwards to ‘same old, same old’. Dare I say it, let’s be innovative in our thinking and courageous in our actions. Let us not ignore the future, but rather take action for the future today. Carpe Diem.