Archive for the ‘exams’ Category

RM column June 6 – Exam coverage in the media – good or bad

Tuesday, July 1st, 2008

RM column June 6 – Exam coverage in the media – good or bad

By the time this column goes to print we will have already had many post-mortems on the various exams in the Junior and Leaving Cert. From the daily television news slot, to radio reports to the daily full page in the national papers dismantling the previous day’s papers.

You certainly don’t get this amount of news stories about people sitting university exams. The fact that nearly everyone who has sat the Leaving Cert agrees that no other exams taken after the Leaving Cert are as stressful. I know people in their 50s who still have nightmares about being back in school sitting these important state tests.

The deluge of media coverage isn’t really something that I thought much about before until recently when a couple of people have commented on how this is overdrive, stressful to students and completely over the top.

I don’t really agree with the comments completely but there is certainly some merit to their arguments.

On one level it is certainly gratifying that our media cover the exams so thoroughly when I was growing up there would be a small mention when exams started and when the results came out, other than that there wasn’t much else.

I wouldn’t have thought all this coverage would put more pressure on already pressurised and stressed students but then I am not sitting exams so I can’t say that for sure.
I do know that this time last year when the Young Wan sat her Junior Cert I was living on the last nerve I had as was she.

If I missed any pre-exam supplements on the Junior Cert I felt that I had failed to get her a study guide that might have made the difference between passing and not. So I suppose I fell prey to the pressure myself.

It could also be argued that covering exams in the way they are shows another side to our kids as opposed to the normal negative news story we are used to in the media.

Given the fact that a significant number of young people leave school without a Leaving Cert, isn’t it also a good thing that so much media time is spent on the Junior and Leaving Cert? It normalises the exams as something that everyone should have.

I understand that not every child is academic but there are still options for them to leave school with some kind of qualification in their back pocket.

Given the impending economic downturn I for one want my daughter armed with qualifications. The first people hit in times like that are those without exams behind them except for the exceptional few.

As an aside if you are a student and feel that things are getting on top of you a new text helpline has been set up which will help you get information from a range of helplines and support services such as the Samaritans, the Gardai and Parentline to name a few. To find out more text ‘headsup’ to 50424 or check out their website at

Summing up I can’t decide whether all this coverage is a good or a bad thing. Have you children doing exams, what do you think? Are you doing exams yourself, how does all the media coverage make you feel?


RM Column May 30th – In praise of Transitions

Tuesday, July 1st, 2008

RM Column May 30th – In praise of Transitions

I have to admit I was not the slightest bit enthusiastic about the Young Wan doing Transition Year. I just couldn’t get my head around it, ‘WHAT, a year with no studying, real classes or exams! Is that wise?

For me it made little sense for students to stop in their tracks after the Junior Cert, surely they would get lazy, get out of the studying and working habit at a crucial age. However I was wrong and I am delighted to say that, for a load of reasons.

Firstly having a year without the stress of exams has been fantastic, seriously fantastic for both of us.

Given that the participants in Transition range are on average about 16 years old the year gives them the chance to grow up and mature, something that I have really noticed in herself.
Then, if the school has a good Transition Year programme, they get the chance to do all sorts of weird and wonderful things. I’m not saying there were not complaints from the Young Wan about the year but it wasn’t along the lines of what I would have imagined it to be.

She threw herself into everything, volunteered for everything and one of her complaints was down to this. She took part in an engineering open day in DCU and hated it. But the point is she did it.

One thing she loved was an open day in one of the hospitals, particularly the radiologist. Personally I think it has a lot to do with the fact they were x-rays of the more bizarre cases such as the man who swallowed a lighter.

She went on field trips, overnight hikes, media courses, she did all sorts.

This putting her hand up for everything paid off too. As a result she was asked by her year head along with two others to do a talk for the students coming into Transition Year to tell them what to expect. One piece of advice she said that I think was really important was that the students in her year who have complained about being bored are those who sat on their hands and did nothing.

She has flourished over the year; she has gained confidence in herself and in school. She knows more what she likes and what she doesn’t. On top of it she is a year older and a year wiser.
I’m not the only person who has noticed. A few months back when she was organising to take a media course, of which only three students took part, I was in contact with one of her teachers.
Up to now this meant she had been misbehaving or something negative. But not this time.
After her teacher and I sorted out the details of the course she then said that the Young Wan was really doing well and they were seriously impressed with her.

About time too, I thought, after all she is an amazing kid. Then the report came in and it was brilliant.

It was about this time I started to change my views on Transition Year, I could see all these amazing changes in the Young Wan, I may soon have to refer to her as the Young Woman!
At the end of the year they had a graduation for the year where they were presented with all the certificates of the things they took part in during the year and the Young Wan has an impressive folder following all her activities.

As usual I found out about it the night before and she was like ‘ach few parents are coming so don’t bother’ and I didn’t go.

Then I got an excited text from her saying that she was nominated by her teachers for student of the year, one of five students given the honour.

Of course I could have told them she was more than capable of this but I suppose this was something the school had to see for themselves and this year, finally, she has allowed herself to shine.

So I am very proud of her and delighted with how much she has enjoyed the year. If you are about to go into Transition Year be sure and take part in everything, you’ll enjoy the year more and you’ll learn more about yourself.


RM colum April 4 – Picking the Leaving

Wednesday, April 30th, 2008

RMcolumn April 4 – Picking the Leaving

has come for the Young Wan to pick her subjects for the Leaving Cert. As important as this is the preparations into it all feels a bit hit and miss to be honest. Aside from the fact that reaching this stage is urrghh, I can already feel the pressure of LEAVING CERT EXAMS starting to rear their ugly head.

I found the pressure of the Junior Cert dreadful and it was only once it was all over that I was able to give a half sigh of relief, the full sigh didn’t come until the results arrived in September. And the thought of two more years of constant fretting about how much work the Young Wan is or isn’t doing leaves me absolutely cold.

Of course the Young Wan was also under pressure but at times you wouldn’t have known it at all.

So now we are at the choosing the subjects stage and the proceedings were kicked off with a parents meeting in the school during the week.

Oh God don’t get me started on parents meetings; the fact that they are held during the day is one of the most ridiculous and lazy things I have ever heard in my life. I have the utmost respect for teachers, I think they have a very hard job, but take a fecking night and talk to parents, believe it or not some of us work and believe it or not it can be hard to get time off work to attend this things.

And in some cases I am quite sure if a parent can’t make it there would be some who think they are not interested in their child’s education.

The Young Wan’s parent teacher meeting this week started at 12.30, so I was in work a couple of hours before I had to leave. It was due to finish at 3.30pm so it is not even a full morning or a full afternoon, it was half and half meaning that I was only in work for about two hours that day as there seemed little point in trying to head through all the traffic to get back into work for the last hour/half-hour.

I am lucky that I am allowed the time to do this, flash back to a couple of years ago and another work place and that would not have been an option at all.

Anyhoo back to the meeting; we sat there as each teacher got up and in English and Irish and explained about each of the subjects.

“Biology is the study of living things…” When I heard that or something similar, I thought ‘shoot me now’ but I sat on and listened to all the different subject descriptions, how much work they have to do and then my ears pricked up at the mention of a lottery.

All the chosen subjects have been placed into three lines with about three subjects in each. Each student has to pick one from each line but nothing is guaranteed. So far two of her preferred subjects are on one line ruling one of them out. That in itself was bad enough, but I understand that.

However it turns out because so many kids are in her year there will be a lottery for some of the subjects. And most of the year seem to be leaning towards biology which is one of the Young Wan’s best subjects and now she will be competing in some nonsense lottery and may not be able to take her best subject!

I understand the school is understaffed and doesn’t have enough teachers to cover all the subjects but if she doesn’t get subjects she has more interest in and is better at I will seriously be re-evaluating whether or not she can stay at that school.

After all surely it is also in the school’s interests to have their students get the highest results they can, but maybe that just makes complete and utter sense to me. I’ll keep you posted…


RM column October 19th – Transitional fun

Friday, November 23rd, 2007

RM column October 19th – Transitional fun

Well Transition Year so far is a blast, the Young Wan is having a ball and loving every moment.

The year is divided up into segments and she is just about finishing the first one and if that is anything to go by it will be a good year.

So far among the new things she has done is Spanish, music and home economics; she has also had an outdoor activity break as well as a trip to a hospital to talk to some people who work in various roles within the health service.

Home economics has been great and we have enjoyed her newly-learned chicken curry on a number of occasions. Her lasagne didn’t make it home because she said it was awful but her brownies (which looked more like they should be called creamies) were lovely and her chocolate muffins.

Trouble was her cooking partner hates nearly everything so the first time she made the curry she didn’t use any veg at all because of the other girl. So we had a chicken curry with about 10 pieces of chicken swimming around a frying pan with lots of sauce.

However that’s a minor complaint and not really one at all because at the end of the day she now has a dinner she can make, a dinner that could be ready some evening when I get home from work.

And on top of it all and probably more importantly she really enjoys it.

The day to the hospital also seems to have been massively enjoyed by her class.

She came home ranting about wanting to be a radiographer having been to a talk where they were shown funny x-rays and the like.

My own suspicions of her new career path is that it has more to do with seeing such films of the crazy things people do to themselves.

She laughed her head over one x-ray which showed a man to have swallowed a lighter.

I hadn’t the heart to tell her not everyday would be that, eh, fun. But I am impressed that staff in the hospital managed to impress a gang of 15 year olds, no mean feat.

Once this rotation of different classes ends the Young Wan will begin the next batch involving other new and exciting possibilities.

While I am still dubious about Transition Year I am delighted to see the pressure off herself, I am delighted to see her enjoying new subjects, she is also enjoying being a senior in the school.

I remain to be convinced about the benefits of not studying fully for the year but as I said I appreciate the pressure being taken off.

The next big fun thing, or so she thinks, is work experience. Apparently other kids she knows got paid for their time and I have tried to tell her that getting paid for work experience is extremely rare and not normal at all.

She looks at me like I am mad, but we will see just how mad I am when she finishes up her week and is given a big smile and hearty handshake for her troubles.

So for now for me the jury is out on Transition Year, it has been fun, informative and all sorts of things but only time will tell on the whole picture. But I can say I am glad the pressure is off because I don’t know who was more stressed over the Junior Cert exams, her or me…


Yeeeharrrrr results are in…

Wednesday, September 12th, 2007

Well the Junior Cert results are in and we are delighted. Two passes and the rest honours! Well done Honey. The celebrations are on me tonight :)

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