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'Ireland may suffer in the future' due to 'simplified' junior cycle geography exam

Ireland may suffer in the future due to what has become a very simplified Junior Cycle geography examination, it was warned after today’s Geography paper.

Under the new Junior Cycle system, Geography is only tested at common level – not higher and ordinary level as before.

“The abolishment of levels will only hurt the more able students in the long term,” Edmund Hussey, geography teacher and Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI) representative, said.

“There is a massive leap now between Junior level and Leaving Cert. It’s a lot more simplified. Ireland may suffer in the future because future geographers may not be ready for this subject at senior cycle.

“There is a growth in STEM and academic students are taking subjects more aligned with industry, particularly in Cork with the pharmaceutical industry. So geography may suffer if we don’t help the better able students to make the transition.” 

He also called for geography to be made a compulsory, core subject like History. He said that the subject already covers climate action and sustainability – important topics for students and something Education Minister Norma Foley spoke about introducing as a new subject at Leaving Cert level.

Overall, today’s Junior Cycle paper was accessible, Mr Hussey said. But students required good literacy skills to successfully navigate and complete all 25 pages of questions and the paper demanded a lot of writing.

Although questions were worth different marks, these marks were not printed on the paper so the only way students could gauge what questions they should give more time to was by how much space on the paper was allocated to the answers, Mr Hussey said.

Despite climate change and environmental sustainability being important topics this year, only one question centred on a windfarm and renewable energy.

In two questions, the images students had to work from were too dark and it was therefore difficult to identify features, he said. Angles of photos and terminology used in two questions are not generally taught at junior level, so this may have proved challenging for some students.

But overall, the paper was accessible, bright and had images and graphs to stimulate the students.

“Overall it was a nice paper, but they had 25 pages to get through and no choice. 

There’s a case to be made for allowing some extra time to read the paper first. 

"The bright students would have sailed through it but a lot of students would have found it very long."

The Leaving Cert papers at both higher and ordinary level were fair, in line with expectations and most students would have been happy with them, Mr Hussey said.