STRONG WORDS Mount St Michael Secondary School Principal, Fionnghuala King, pictured here presenting Nicole Grier with The Performing Arts Award and The Ray Leonard Memorial Cup, was severly critical of the Leaving Cert last week.?Pic: Trish Forde
Claremorris principal finds Leaving Cert “upsetting and incredibly limiting”
THE principal of one of the West of Ireland’s leading schools, Mount Saint Michael Secondary School in Claremorris, says the Leaving Cert is badly flawed and in dramatic need of an urgent overhaul. Speaking at the recent Graduation Mass for students in the school, Ms Fionnghuala King said it was time to take a whole new look at the long-time structures of the Leaving Cert.
“I’m getting rightly fed up of the Leaving Cert - wouldn’t it drive you mad? For me, having spent all my working life experiencing the wonders of young people - the wonders of you - I find it disappointing - upsetting - yes upsetting, that a way of measuring or rewarding such wonders has not yet been discovered,” she told the large gathering.
“The Leaving Cert system may be fair and somewhat transparent but it is incredibly limited and limiting. It is possible for students to memorise pre-packaged answers to gain maximum points. So declares a recent report prepared at the request of the Minister for Education to give an overview of the issues facing the education system in Ireland today.
“Ruairi Quinn, the Minister for Education, you see, doesn’t like the Leaving Cert either - he agrees with me. The Leaving Cert is flawed. So do the university presidents who argue that 2nd level students weaned on rote learning in the Leaving Cert, struggle to cope with independent learning in 3rd level.
“Employers too moan about the Leaving Cert - they say that Leaving Cert students are deficient in key areas like critical thinking, flexibility and problem solving. When such things are not rewarded in the Leaving Cert, it’s hardly surprising they are not often to the fore of student learning. It could be argued that the sole objective of secondary education is about getting to 3rd level education.
“And that’s what upsets me - that’s what makes me rightly fed up of the Leaving Cert.
Your Leaving Cert results will not adequately reward what you have achieved here at Mount St. Michael - will not adequately reflect your worth.”
Ms King told the Leaving Cert class they were a gift to society and had benefitted enormously from their time in the school. “Your education here has been packed with academics but at all times there has been something more than that - chances to debate, to grapple with moral dilemmas, to laugh and to ponder, to sing and dance, to test your fitness, to do mock interviews and mock exams and sometimes just mock - in good taste, of course to dress up, to own up, to stand up, to screw up, to play and to train, to compete and to win and to lose, to pray, to mediate, to reflect and review, to plan and to dream, to be together, to be alone. You are creative, you are fine independent women, you are problem solvers. Your education here has gone way beyond points, way beyond pre-prepared exam answers. You are 21st century learners - a gift to society.”
She recalled hearing the writer, poet and philosopher, John O’Donoghue talk at a CEIST conference in November ‘07. “John was to die only a few short months later. But he moved me, firstly because he had beautiful English but secondly because he talked of education as something so fulfilling, so wondrous and so vital that I knew it was my kind of education and hopefully Mount St. Michael’s kind of education and not really the education that is measured by your Leaving Cert results.”