THE Junior Certificate results, which are out tomorrow, Wednesday, November 23, have been much anticipated by anxious and eager students and their parents here in Cork and around the country.
The five-month delay, according to the State Examinations Commission, was sparked by a shortage of teachers to mark the Junior papers, coupled with the delay in the delivery of the Leaving Certificate results and the following appeal process.
The anticipated date was finally announced by the Department of Education and Skills (DES). This momentous day will see 68,000 students receive their results in school or online from 4pm.
Unfortunately, this day also brings about the stigmatised cloud that can tend to hang over the Junior Certificate results. Whisperings of it being ‘a waste of time’ and it ‘means nothing’, a cliché that to anyone working in education or to students themselves who worked hard for three years to get to this point, and their parents who have supported them, is merely unfair.
As a Career Guidance Counsellor and career advisor at www.careerhub.ie, I meet students on a daily basis who are met with challenges of choosing subjects, subjects which may be integral to gaining entry into their desired course via the CAO process. It is a big decision period in their education and one parents are eager to support their son or daughter with.
A recent Leaving Cert student of mine at www.careerhub.ie for example, who is achieving high points, does not have Chemistry as a Leaving Cert subject required for entry into veterinary medicine in UCD.
This, as she said herself, was pure oversight and lack of knowledge when she was choosing her subjects. It now means she has to work towards different entry routes into her chosen career.
There is undoubtable value in the Junior Certificate process. The Junior Cert exam results are one way for a student to ascertain if the subject is going to be viable or suitable for them or not. If the student achieves a good grade and enjoys the subject, it could prove a good subject choice for his or her Leaving Certificate. It gives them a foundation to see if they will achieve minimum requirements for certain courses, for example primary teaching requires a H4 in Irish.
Therefore, the student can make a plan for Irish if they find that it’s a weak point after their Junior Cert results.
Exam technique is a vital part of sitting your Junior Cert. exam. Timing, exam paper layout, exam atmosphere, no familiar teachers, instead invigilators, and expected conduct all are an integral learning curve for students.
Students get to sit in an exam environment, and engage in study technique, planning and preparation. This is invaluable experience for when their Leaving Certificate comes around, preparation has been engaged in and expectations have been learnt already.
There is no denying the stakes are higher with the Leaving Cert. However, having sat a state exam for the Junior Cert, having experienced the most basic as the exam booklet, the atmosphere all makes the Leaving Certificate exams less daunting, the unknown now becomes the practiced.
Parents of Leaving Cert students who didn’t get the opportunity to sit a Junior Cert exam due to the Covid 19 pandemic and cancellation of exams in 2020 and 2021 have recently and regularly been expressing concern over the lack of study knowledge, study protocol and subject knowledge surrounding their son or daughter and they worry this will go against them sitting the Leaving Cert. exam in a year or two years’ time.
These students, some of whom are in 5th year, have had no experience of a state exam and the results are obvious, they feel unprepared and a lot are demotivated. They won’t have that valuable base of having completed the Junior Cert state exam.
Also, for those who will go on to higher level education the Junior Cert results may not appear on their future CV but for anyone leaving school early or engaging in an apprenticeship, they do matter. Junior Cert results don’t impact directly on a student’s opportunity to enter a third level college as it’s based on the performance of the candidate and thereafter their Leaving Cert results.
However, there is a large cohort now of students studying abroad in places like Poland, Budapest and the UK, and their EUNICAS or UCAS application needs to be submitted before their Leaving Cert. results are available. Predicted grades and possibly other exam grades which may take into account Junior Cert. results need to be submitted as part of their application.
Furthermore, for those students who are disappointed by their results or felt that they could have done better, it gives them time to investigate why and implement a better approach to the Leaving Cert exam.
Working with students and parents at www.careerhub.ie who face challenges of state exam preparation, choosing Leaving Cert subjects and making decisions, I can see every day that it is a stressful and worrying time, a time of change and decision.
To have this cloud demeaning the process is demoralising and unfair to them.
About the author: Michelle Flynn is a Guidance Counsellor and Career Advisor specialising in career guidance for students and their parents and career change at www.careerhub.ie or follow @careerhub.ie on Instagram or Facebook.