It’s quite a number of years since I sat the Leaving Cert (LC) and I – like others, if they are honest – am guilty of selective memory and prone to the occasional “in my day” comment in relation to those exams.
Was it harder then? Was it easier? Was it fairer? The answer to these questions of course is completely irrelevant.
It is a fact that this generation, and the one before it (mine), have been much more fortunate as regards education than the ones that came before them
Students in 2021 are not competing for places in college with any other LC cohort, they are competing against each other. The options were the same for all students and perhaps this revised format (mixing exams with predicted grades) is actually fairer.
It is a fact that this generation, and the one before it (mine), have been much more fortunate as regards education than the ones that came before them. According to our most recent Census data (2016) “younger people who had finished full-time education were significantly better educated than older people”. The census shows that 56% of people aged 15-39 possessed a third-level qualification, in comparison to 18.9% of those aged 65 and over. Of those aged 65 plus, 40% had an education to primary level only.
Most people grow up exposed only to what they see around them
My mother has often told me that when she finished her LC (in the early 70s) there were not many options given to her. All the women were pretty much advised to go down similar routes (typist in her case) despite a university offer. This is no longer the case. There is now a myriad of varied career options. Most people grow up exposed only to what they see around them and this can impact on what they do.
I believe the role of career guidance is one of the most important jobs in our educational system
It is a crying shame that career choices can still be made on the back of a lack of information. For this reason, I believe the role of career guidance is one of the most important jobs in our educational system.
The knowledge consumed to successfully complete the LC will have no real bearing on a student’s future career. It is a task to be completed to get you to the gates of employment via a route, hopefully, of your choosing. It appears, however, that as opportunities to achieve third-level education increased, this level of education has become a baseline for some jobs. In some cases, an undergraduate degree is no longer sufficient to elevate your CV to the “hiring pile” as it would have done for those previous generations.
[...] you could deduct that the LC is easier now and that grade inflation has made today’s LC students look smarter than they are
Over the last 30-odd years, as the number of people with a third-level degree crept up from just under 14% to closer to 50%, the pressure to have additional qualifications has also crept up. Students will consider a postgraduate degree as their next step almost as readily as the jump into the workforce. So you could deduct that the LC is easier now and that grade inflation has made today’s LC students look smarter than they are. But in today’s world, their education is potentially at a very early stage.
When tempted to make any comparison with “then” and “now”, I reflect on the comments made by the Cork U20 football manager, Keith Ricken, in a post-match interview following his team’s loss to Offaly in July. In support of his young players, he said: “We keep hearing about the ‘snowflake generation’. I’m still looking for them, I haven’t found them yet. If these guys are the future, my pension will be OK, your pension will be OK. We’ll be fine.”
Congrats to all the Leaving Cert students. You are on your way. Best of luck.