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11th Jun 2024

Should continuous assessment replace the Leaving Certificate?

Sophie Collins

Leaving Cert

The yearly debate about the future of the Leaving Cert has kicked off

Opinions are strong on both sides of the argument with some criticising the level of pressure being placed on young people doing the Leaving Certificate, while others think it’s necessary.

Newstalk Breakfast presenter Ciara Kelly is among those who argue against getting rid of the State exams, saying that it plays a crucial role in preparing students for the “real world”.

Calls for Change

Politicians, including Paul Murphy, have advocated for replacing the Leaving Cert with alternative forms of assessment. 

They believe that continuous assessment or other methods could better serve students’ educational and developmental needs.

However, Shane Coleman, another voice from Newstalk Breakfast, defended the current system, describing the Leaving Cert as the “least worst option”.

He emphasised the fairness of the exam, and said  that it eliminates advantages that could come from personal connections. 

“At least this system is fair – no one is getting into college because they know the senior professor,” Coleman remarked. 

He shared his personal experience, and said his own son’s struggles with the Leaving Cert but that it is part of the importance of facing and overcoming challenges.

Preparation for The Future

Ciara Kelly echoed these sentiments, stressing that life often involves significant challenges and pressures, which the Leaving Cert helps students to experience and manage. 

She critiqued the modern tendency to remove obstacles for young people, and said that this approach leaves them ill-prepared for real-world difficulties. 

“Trying to remove obstacles and obstacles and obstacles, which is sort of the modern way – sounds great in theory but doesn’t prepare kids for the real world,” Kelly stated.


Kelly also raised concerns about continuous assessment, and said that it could introduce new inequities. 

She highlighted scenarios where students might benefit unfairly from external help, such as having a parent who is an expert in a relevant field. 

“A blank page in an exam hall in a way is fairer than that,” she said, suggesting that the objectivity of exams offers a more level playing field.

Kelly also argued that scrapping the Leaving Cert without a viable alternative is impractical and could lead to unintended consequences. 

She questioned the feasibility of admitting students to college without an exam-based system. 

“Will we just have 8,000 course places in medicine?” she asked rhetorically.

“Should we have a lottery, so it doesn’t matter if you’re suited to it, if you’re academically very good?” she pondered.

Current Exam Schedule

Amid these debates, the Leaving Cert exams continue as scheduled. 

They began last Wednesday with English Paper One and will conclude on June 25th with exams in Japanese, Politics, Arabic, Religious Education, and Applied Maths. 

Today, students are tackling Irish Paper Two and Biology.

This ongoing discussion highlights the complexities and varied perspectives surrounding the Leaving Cert, emphasising the need for careful consideration of any proposed changes to the system.