Assessment and Performance

One of the interesting debates in recent times has been whether the Irish education system is, in reality, the ‘world-class system’ often boasted of by successive ministers for education. The OECD’s 2010 Pisa report on Irish education showed sharp declines in performance in reading and maths and Ireland is not ranked among the top performers in science. Minister for Education, Ruairķ Quinn, appointed in 2011, criticised the complacency about overall standards in the education system, noting that “pupils in a number of other countries are performing significantly above the performance of Irish students” and suggested that the recasting of the curriculum in primary schools with a focus on maths and science was needed. One of the educational narratives of boom-time Ireland was that an ever-increasing investment in advanced specialist and technical education and training in ICT, chemical, software, and general engineering was required.

Assessment of students is strongly centralised in Ireland through the Junior Cert and Leaving Cert programmes at second level. However there has been much consensus about the idea that learning experiences need to be more student-centred as well as criticisms about the focus on gaining points in the leaving certificate to secure entry to third level at the expense of autonomous minds. Another notable feature of the Irish education system has been the control and management of schools; in 2011 there were still fewer than 70 multi-denominational primary schools in Ireland and 95% of primary schools were under the patronage of the main churches; the issue of choice was therefore significant.


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