In a webcast last week on the website of the NCCA, Minister for Education and Skills Ruairi Quinn gave his full support (almost!) to the recently published document ‘Towards a new Framework for Junior Cycle’.
The webcast was his actual address to the council and the full document to which he was responding is now available to view on www.ncca.ie . Hard copies are being circulated to the schools. Here at SAMI we were especially pleased to hear the Minister’s enthusiastic welcoming of the documents envisaging of ICT playing a major role in the new system.
As an ICT partner with both primary and secondary schools we have seen and heard at first hand the benefits to learning when even a small input of digital tools occurs, so this is good news indeed.
Essentially the document proposes the embedding of ICT as a tool which is actively used in all classrooms and in the teaching and learning of all subjects whereby students will be comfortable by the age of 15 in the use of digital media and ICT – in the workplace, in learning and in social interaction.
Some commentators might suggest that primary schools have actually been taking the lead in this area up until now, leaving many 13 year old 1st Years frustrated at ‘taking a step back’, ICT-wise, when they arrive in secondary school. By 2014 hopefully this will no longer be the case. So, how do the NCCA want ICT to be embedded in this way?
According to the document students will be assessed 60% by public examination and 40% continuous assessment. Part of this is to include a requirement for students to produce digital portfolios. This is to be welcomed. Innovative tech companies in the education sector like SAMI (we said modestly!) will be looking forward to hearing more about what this will involve and how we might be able to help.
The Minister also spoke in broad terms about how the NCCA hopes to move junior cycle students beyond rote learning and that he was pleased to see the focus on the process of learning rather than merely on the exam system. Transition Year has already shown that schools have the capacity to generate their own innovative programmes, and now schools will be allowed the latitude to do the same in the junior cycle. He also welcomed the introduction of short courses, which one presumes could be geographically oriented and could include anything from fisheries to climate issues to personal finance or ICT related.
As well as the short courses, the other major curriculum/exam change is that from 2017 (when the first students will reach the actual exams) they can only be examined in a maximum of 8 subjects. Some subjects may be amalgamated, to which the Minister expressed concern at the future of History, and to a lesser extent, Geography. One presumes History and Geography teachers are expressing similar concern! But, of course, the entire endeavour is still very much a work-in-progress. The Minister acknowledged that there may be problems, for example timetabling, fear of ‘dumbing-down’, time demands (especially re literacy and numeracy), and would there be too big a gap between the junior and senior cycles plus the impact on the Leaving Cert etc. This is a big proposed change to how we educate our adolescents (the Minister placed particular emphasis on the word adolescents), and it is one of the biggest stories in education this year. We plan to return to it one of our next blog entries.
SAMI has been working with Irish schools for eight years now, offering innovative and cost-effective ICT solutions.
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