The Leaving Cert- Leanne Nulty
Ah the torturous passage we call The Leaving Cert. Have we done well in the mocks? I’m one of the lucky ones, I’ve got until after the mid-term to memorise everything. After all, that is mostly what the LC is, right?
The Leaving Cert is, above all else, a memory test. We memorise pretty much everything for English, we memorise our History essays, religion essays, the list goes on. Don’t get me wrong, I actually enjoy most of my subjects. I’m planning on studying English Literature after school. However, do I agree with the way the exam is sat? Of course not! Give me 6 hours, plenty of tea, and toliet breaks, and I will write you a great analysis on the unique style of Sylvia Plath. But put me in a high pressure situation where I have to remember page long essays and probably end up with carpal tunnel by the end, I’ll give you something half decent at best.
Of course we remember the shock and trauma of ‘Pleaney’s’ absense a few years back. For those of you who don’t know: Plath + Heaney = Pleaney. It was taken as a given that both of these poets would appear, and they didn’t, sending students into a state of panic. I’m guessing that something similar may happen this year with Seamus Heaney. It would be an obvious choice to select him, to pay tribute to one of our country’s greatest poets. Although, students will expect this, and therefore the Department may decide against it. This is in order to avoid being ‘predictable’, and stop students simply learning essays off by heart. The main flaw with this is, as long as the Leaving Cert exists in its current format, there will be learning off by heart.
Which brings me onto Irish. Ireland, the only country where children are ‘taught’ how to speak their native language since primary school and yet they reach the age of 17/18/19 and they can’t speak a word. Why is this? Well, in my experience (and from what students from other schools have told me), Irish teachers just aren’t very good at their jobs. Of course there are brilliant teachers out there, but it seems to be the case for the majority. My teacher spends her time making up excuses to leave and encouraging students to do foundation level. You are given notes and expected to simply learn them off. There is no focus on language development, not like with German, French, etc. Those of us who aren’t fluent, due to poor teaching, or not being brought up with the language, are in serious trouble.
The Sraith Pictiúr are a prime example of rote learning. Students will simply learn them off and then pray for their best one to come up in the oral. There are twenty of these picture stories, which is ridiculous. It is a waste of my time, it’s a waste of the examiners time, and it’s a waste of paper. It’s no wonder that the trend of burning them after the exam has emerged. Although, I would point out that they’re not as easy to learn as expected. If you’ve not started already, you’re running out of time, get learning!
There are no two ways about it, school really doesn’t test your intelligence that much. The Leaving Cert tests our memories and how well we cope with exams. My English teacher once told us the story of a girl breaking down in tears during an exam. Is it really fair to put anyone under that kind of pressure? The SECs efforts to stop rote learning are failing. The exams are a game of chance, and depend so heavily on luck.
Nonetheless, I wish everyone the very best in their mocks, practicals and of course in the real thing. Try your absolute best but remember that no matter what, you’re not stupid. Do not let a few letters on a page dictate who you are. You are so much more than that.
“Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish on its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid” – Albert Einstein.