I’m a procrastinator. But thankfully that’s what I am – I postpone things but I guess they get done in the end and people don’t notice too much thankfully; I’d thought about blogging for ISSU to keep the members in touch but look it; 6 months in and I’m only starting; well better late then never!

There’s a lot fuss right now about this new junior cycle! A lot of negative and unnecessary fuss that is; and a significant amount of necessary concerns! I’m listening to these concerns, as is all of the ISSU Executive, but as the leader of this union representing second-level students on issues concerning them and as an activist with a responsibility to look out for student’s best interests; I feel it’s my job to do my job and fight for what’s best for us and for the future of secondary education in Ireland; that’s why we’re supporting JCSA.

Teachers have concerns, and they’re right to on a number of grounds; I see their points but we as students have points too!

JCSA originated from dissatisfaction with the old Junior Cert! Rote Learning, lack of “real life skills” after the course, and quite an unfair system overall! So students, parents and even teachers made sure this was heard; they made sure the Government and the NCCA in particular realised Junior Cert wasn’t working!

Young People made all sorts of great reccomendations such as reforming the Junior Cycle to first and 2nd year and moving TY to 3rd year, and investing in it more to make it more affordable for families, and then extend the big bold stresses of the Leaving Cert to 3 years so as to reduce the horrible cramming that associates itself with final assessment!

So, the government somewhat listened and somewhat didn’t , but they compromised and came up with the new Junior Cycle System which instead of giving you a giant list of stuff to know, it gives you a list of 24 skills you should possess and utilize. Click here to see these 24 Statements of Learning and Key Aspects of Junior Cycle.

So, you get it; Opinions heard and Reform comes along!

But, then we’ve got this nasty “continuous self assessment” and all of a sudden you think; Teachers marking my work? Marking my brothers work? Bad idea! What if he doesn’t like me and gives me a bad grade! Well now, if that’s the case then I think it’s teachers that need reform instead of our education system; as teachers should assess their students with professional experience , skill and due manner and not give anyone priority, as that would be unprofessional and that would damage education’s progression.

Students are getting the wrong perspective on Junior Cycle reform, it’s not flawless, there’s some level of changes required! But don’t mind the rumours that say theres no curriculum and that favouritism will take over; because to that I answer with that two facts instead of two rumours; Schools and their assesments methods will be inspected regularly, and yes there is a curriculum and it’s much better than the original Junior Cert! Imagine this; you leave the Junior Cycle not thinking “Well that was stressful and a waste , suppose I’m ready for Leaving Cert now!” – Sorry, fellows your not, the leaving cert is rather different ! Instead you leave with instead of a stepping stone to further assesement i.e the Leaving Cert you leave with a stepping stone in your education, you leave with skills and abilities to learn and question the world around you.

Students don’t need 2 lumps of stress, one at 14 and 15 and another at 17 and 18, they need education! The stress and uneccessary elements that once accompanied our Junior Cert are irrelevant and backwards, the approach the new JSCA brings us forward and I want to ask all our supporters as students to reflect on the Junior Cert and what it thought you, or more to the point what it didn’t teach you.

Education isn’t about going from one exam to the other, it’s about learning!

I’d encourage ye all to make your own choices and stances on this, but as an individual once opposed to these reforms I’d highly advise ye take a look at our Junior Cycle Student Perspective Document as put together by our Education Officer ; Joanna Siewerska.

Wishing ye all the best,

Craig McHugh,