The Leaving Cert has always placed a colossal amount of stress on and young people in Ireland, to the extent that many fully-grown adults can relate to the notion of waking up in a cold sweat as you try to reel off the biology definitions you regurgitated onto an exam paper seventeen years ago. The Leaving Cert is an unequal and unfair terminal exam that puts a massive strain on the mental health of students, this is particularly true for LGBT+ students. This Government’s recent decision to postpone the Leaving Cert to late in the summer only exemplifies this.
Even direr, a significant portion of students will be mourning the loss of friends and family, unable to attend funerals and grieve properly, let alone study for hours on end.
It stupefies me that the Government expect 61,000 sixth year students to sit life-altering exams in the midst of a public health crisis. Young people will inevitably sit exams ill with Covid-19, whilst other students, teachers and invigilators will risk contracting the virus in exam halls. Even direr, a significant portion of students will be mourning the loss of friends and family, unable to attend funerals and grieve properly, let alone study for hours on end. We are being forced to pit our grades over our mental and physical health. This is unacceptable; the Leaving Cert and all future forms of assessment must be cancelled this year to prevent a spike in the mental health crisis.
This postponement is hitting the most vulnerable layers of society hardest. Whilst students from stable, middle-class families can afford private education and quiet study spaces, not everyone is as lucky. Many students around the country do not have a reliable broadband connection, or cannot afford the necessary technology to fully participate in online classes. This disparity is only exacerbated for students with disabilities and/or mental health issues, and students living with tense households and/or abusive families. And as LGBT+ students face disproportionately high rates of homelessness, disability, household abuse and serious mental health issues, it is clear that LGBT+ students are being unconsciously discriminated against in this pandemic.
COVID-19 has exposed the nature of our economy, and the overlying capitalist system – its inability to close non-essential businesses and provide workers with necessary PPE, for example. It has also revealed how broken our education system is – our dependence on a set of three-week exams to quantify a student’s ability to enter third level. It has become an annual Irish rite of passage to pit students against one another in a race to memorise. Leaving Cert fails to improve our cognition but places an enormous amount of stress on young people. A survey conducted by revision website Studyclix last year found that 75% of sixth-year students felt “extreme stress” as a direct result of the Leaving Cert. Following this pandemic, it is crucial that students and teachers come together to discuss alternative forms of assessment that actually benefit young people.
Education systems under capitalism aim to create a generation of productive and obedient workers, who compete against one another to churn profits for the super-rich.
Education systems under capitalism aim to create a generation of productive and obedient workers, who compete against one another to churn profits for the super-rich. Young people deserve better. We need an education system that teaches students to think creatively and to love and accept one another, without the overburdening pressure of exams. We also need to end the elitist restrictions of college and university courses, to open up free third-level education for all. The government’s decision to postpone the Leaving Cert represents a dire reality for young people today, but we must use our anger to demand proper educational reform!
Please sign this petition calling for the cancellation the Leaving Cert and all forms of assessment this year: https://www.change.org/canceltheleaving2020
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