Leaving Cert failing to prepare students for university, study claims

Less than 24% felt the exam prepared them well to use technology to improve learning

Leaving Cert failing to prepare students for university, study claims

File photo shows Leaving Cert students in their exms in 2009 | Image: Mark Stedman/RollingNews.ie

A new study has suggested the Leaving Certificate is failing to adequately prepare students for university.

That is according to new research published by the Institute of Education at Dublin City University (DCU).

Less than one-quarter (24%) of respondents felt that the Leaving Cert programme prepared them well to use technology to improve their learning.

While only one-quarter felt the Leaving Certificate prepared them well to interrogate and critically evaluate information or ideas.

Some 27% said the programme prepared them well to compare information from different sources, and 28% felt it prepared them to identify sources of information.

Only 30% felt the exam prepared them well to explore ideas from a number of different perspectives.

Independent thinking, open-mindedness and confidence in reaching decisions were among other areas where respondents overwhelmingly felt that the Leaving Certificate did not sufficiently prepare them for their college work.

The survey was of more than 300 first-year DCU students across a wide range of courses.

However, the study found that the majority of respondents believed that the Leaving Cert had prepared them well to persist when learning was difficult (83% agreed), be well organised (83% agreed), be self-disciplined (75% agreed), manage their time (72% agreed) and cope with the pressure of heavy workload requirements (75% agreed).

A Leaving Cert student studying before he goes into an exam in Dublin | Image: Mark Stedman/RollingNews.ie

Professor Michael O'Leary is director of the Centre for Assessment Research Policy and Practice (CARPE) at the Institute of Education.

He said: "While there are some encouraging elements to take from this survey, the overall findings of our research reveal a worrying disconnect and, consequently, challenging transition between second and third-level education.

"Despite being the main pathway used for entering third-level education, the Leaving Certificate Programme is not, on this compelling new evidence, sufficiently equipping students with the necessary skills for third-level study."

In terms of what is needed to address the deficiencies and concerns identified, Prof O'Leary said: "One practical step would be to build on the work now underway at junior cycle that seeks to provide students with the tools to start developing greater learner autonomy.

"At senior cycle, this might involve, for example, exposing students to a wider range of literature and teaching them how to cite others to lend support to their views while at the same time broadening assessment to include approaches that facilitate the gathering of evidence for critical, independent thinking."