OVER the last few days, the Leaving Certificate has been brought to the forefront of the Coronavirus conversation in Ireland.
This comes as a great relief to students, who just wanted to feel as if we were being heard and seen. With so much chaos in the world at present, we long for some semblance of certainty.
The Leaving Cert is, of course, a wholly small problem compared to the ones many people are facing amidst this pandemic. It feels, sometimes, as though us students are the only ones seeing the triviality of the exams within this situation.
Many adults are steadfast that they need to continue as normal. But in such an abnormal situation, how can we expect the Leaving Cert to continue as if it’s business as usual?
There are many thousands of students sitting their exams this year — including those that are repeating. In the development of a solution, we need to consider everyone.
This can no longer be called a ‘contingency plan’. By the very definition, that means a plan for an outcome other than that expected. But since we can no longer expect to return to school after March 29, since we can no longer expect to fairly sit our exams in June, how is it still a contingency?
A new plan is needed, this much is clear, and in truth we aren’t left with many options.
The recent announcement by the Government means that everyone is getting 100% in their orals and music practicals. But these are only a small number of our subjects and some students don’t even study them.
And this announcement begs the question; what will it mean for the written papers?
The Leaving Certificate is one of the most stressful times in an Irish person’s life. And for many young people, it is one of our first encounters with stress of this level.
March is the month when many of us begin revising, when we start to feel as though we are finally understanding the things we have been taught for the past two years. At least it’s supposed to be.
But this month, we are not in school. And while not one of us is complaining about this matter — we acknowledge the importance of social distancing — we need people to understand the stress that this is adding to an already suffocating year.
One of the plans that has been spoken about a lot is that of deferring the exams until a date as late as September. You only need to ask a Leaving Cert student to find out how harmful this proposal is.
We have missed out on so much school and we will miss out on so much more.
Online learning is in place, yes, but it does not work for everyone. There are students that don’t have access to the technology needed. There are students that don’t have a safe space to learn. There are many, many students that will be touched by this virus. And that scares us.
Some of us will get sick. Some of us will lose people. Some of us may even die.
When all of these things are true, how can you possibly expect us to sit our final exams?
This is a terrifying time for everyone. This pandemic makes us so very afraid. We see on the news how serious it is and yet we are still expected to put our heads down and continue studying for an exam that we can’t even see taking place.
With few solutions left, one seems to be the best option: predictive grading.
It would consist of looking at marks from a collection of our previous exams and advice from teachers as to what we could have expected in June.
While it may give rise to some problems and while it is completely different from previous years, it does seem like the best option for this current situation.
Predictive grading levels the playing field. It is based on the work that we have already completed.
It doesn’t discriminate against those that do not have access to online learning, nor against those that will be heavily impacted by the virus.
Our priorities need to remain safety and equality. Predictive grading ensures this.
We cannot sit the exams in June and we cannot defer. Deferring brings up many problems for not only the college system but also school years below us.
More importantly, it would lead to an immense increase of mental health issues.
Sixth year is an extremely arduous year. The workload and stress is intense. Adding more months to that — months that were supposed to be our summer, months where we were supposed to be finished school — will severely and adversely impact on students.
This clearly leaves predictive grading as the best option.
Regardless of what option is chosen, students need to be informed soon. This is a scary and uncertain time.
We beg the government to give us some finality so that everyone can shift our focus to those that truly need us.
This is the calm before the storm. When the storm comes, and we have been told that it will, we need everyone to come together.
Don’t leave sixth years with their heads buried in books and uncertainty, studying for exams that are clouded in doubt.
Let us instead be creative and kind and try to make this horrific time a little better for everyone.