The Leaving Cert: Keep Calm and Carry On

Bridge21 students (March 2010)

“You’re only competing with yourself so if you do your best, you should have no regrets.” This was the advice given by one Leaving Cert student to any future students.

Recently, we invited some former Bridge21 students, who sat the Leaving Certificate this year, to spend a day with us to reflect on the whole experience, offer advice to future students and to suggest some changes they think would be helpful. It was great to see some familiar faces again and we had a very enjoyable day with lots of interesting discussions and ideas.

The first topic covered was the experience of sitting the Leaving Cert. This was planned as a short discussion but continued for 90 minutes with around 10 minutes spent on the “Positive/Enjoyable” elements of the whole process and the rest on the “Less Positive/Less Enjoyable” parts!

In terms of advice for future students, there were a lot of common sense suggestions. There is no substitute for hard work but taking regular short breaks was advised too. Eating well, sleeping well and regular exercise were all recommended. Avoiding constant “study snacks” was another good tip! The main message was to keep calm, work hard and ask for help when you need it, either from a teacher or a friend. And finally, to remember that you’re only competing with yourself so if you do your best, you should have no regrets!

As part of this, we did some video work. The question, “What advice would you give to students sitting the Leaving Cert next year?”, was written on a Post-It note and stuck to a camera. Each student took a turn sitting in front of the camera, read the question and had to answer straight away. This is what they said….

[youtube width=”450″ height=”358″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GeMdXfHWdN4&feature=youtu.be[/youtube]

 

Some of the students worked on ideas to improve the current system. Continuous assessment rather than one final exam was a popular theme with most students. They felt that this would reduce the pressure on students but recognised that there are logistical issues with such a change. Increased use of team-work and technology were suggested by several students (these are Bridge21 students, after all!) with online resources such as the Khan academy and the use of tablets or kindles to replace heavy books among the ideas.

Some of the most interesting ideas were around the teaching of languages. Some students suggested that language classes should be timetabled as written or spoken classes to make sure they would spend time working on both aspects of the language. Others wanted to take it a step further and split languages into two separate exams, one written and one spoken. 80% of the students wanted Irish to be an optional subject but many felt that if it is to remain compulsory, only having to study oral or written Irish would be preferable. They also said that anyone who wanted to study both should be able to do so. The English language was included in this discussion, with one group suggesting an “English Oral” as part of the Leaving Certificate. Public speaking, presentations and role playing in formal situations, such as a job interview, were among the ideas for what the English oral might include.

We hope we’ve not seen the last of these great students and we hope some of their ideas come to fruition. In the short term though, we hope they get the results they deserve on August 15th!

Some Leaving Cert survivors during their time with Bridge21 (April 2010)

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