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Has the Leaving cert been 'dumbed down'?

B

birthday

Firstly congratulations to all students on Leaving cert results and to those teachers (yes there are many) who worked hard to help their students.

For old timers like myself I am often somewhat surprised at the number of very high grades achieved in recent years. Some say it is because students and teachers are working harder and I am sure that this is the case often enough but the suggestion that the exam has been 'dumbed down' is often made and deserves to be treated in a manner that will address whether there is some truth in this assertion.
Is it possible to objectively measure whether this is so?
I would not be tempted to take at face value anything from the Department of Education on this and was wondering is there any independent way of investigating this.
 


NeilW

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Dec 31, 2005
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4,420
Of course it is possible to objectively measure this, the papers are available for anyone to study. Whether the standard to achieve certain grades has been raised or lowered is harder to judge because you'd need to see the answers. But do you have any evidence at all to back up the "suggestion" that the exams have been dumbed down. I havent looked at a paper since I sat the exams myself years ago but back then the exams were getting harder, if anything, over the years and I doubt that trend has reversed dramatically since then.
 
D

Deleted member 17573

Firstly congratulations to all students on Leaving cert results and to those teachers (yes there are many) who worked hard to help their students.

For old timers like myself I am often somewhat surprised at the number of very high grades achieved in recent years. Some say it is because students and teachers are working harder and I am sure that this is the case often enough but the suggestion that the exam has been 'dumbed down' is often made and deserves to be treated in a manner that will address whether there is some truth in this assertion.
Is it possible to objectively measure whether this is so?
I would not be tempted to take at face value anything from the Department of Education on this and was wondering is there any independent way of investigating this.
I don´t honestly think it has been dumbed down - certainly the subject content and standard have been raised since I did my LC forty years ago. But, I have been wondering about this issue too - If you got a few honours - effectively 3/4 Grade C you were considered pretty bright - now it takes a clatter of A´s before anyone even notices. I suspect that teaching standards have improved , the quality of textbook is way better but at the end of the day I suspect that the key factor may be that both teachers and students may be concentrating more nowadays on how to maximise results based on teaching that is highly exam focussed. Question is are they studying a subject or are they studying how best to pass a particular exam in that subject ?
 

Jock_the_Waster

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I would not know.

I did my leaving before the Inter.
 

Vega1447

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but the suggestion that the exam has been 'dumbed down' is often made and deserves to be treated in a manner that will address whether there is some truth in this assertion.
Is it possible to objectively measure whether this is so?
Yes.

The late Seamus Brennan when Min Ed certainly dumbed down the LC H Maths syllabus and correspondingly the LC H Maths exam.

Others may know more about other subjects but
This I Know....
 

hammer

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Of course it has been.

Next year - it will be dumbed down even more to try and get as many to qualify for fee paying universities...

You actually get marks now if you know your own name.

Teachers are the problem. Dont know the difference between Paper 1 and Paper 2 !!

Tribunal......
 

Vega1447

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Oct 18, 2007
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its not dumbing down if the lc math honours was too hard and took up too much time, which it does, its making it doable
It means that:

a 1989 LC H Maths B1
is worth (much) more than
a 2009 LC H Maths A1.

Which *is* dumbing down...
 

Akrasia

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The LC is one of the toughest exams in the world, much harder than any University exams I have ever done (and I have a Masters degree)
It's not just the questions on the papers, but the fact that there are so many different subjects crammed into such a short space of time, each of which requires vast stores of information to be able to achieve an A grade.
 

Vega1447

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The LC is one of the toughest exams in the world, much harder than any University exams I have ever done (and I have a Masters degree)
It's not just the questions on the papers, but the fact that there are so many different subjects crammed into such a short space of time, each of which requires vast stores of information to be able to achieve an A grade.
Yes but (sadly) not vast stores of understanding or insight.

Remember a couple of years ago LC H Maths students were asked to calculate volume of a pyramid given a *photo* and the relevant lengths etc.

There was war...
 

Seos

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It means that:

a 1989 LC H Maths B1
is worth (much) more than
a 2009 LC H Maths A1.

Which *is* dumbing down...
It has almost certainly been "dumbed down", however the questions are; how much of that "dumbing down" was getting rid of crap that was useless and when seen like that how much more "dumbing down" needs to be done?
So the amount of work required for an A1 now might be the same as the work required for a B1 back then, however if you actually want to use that (in this case) maths for something then the current A1 is probably as good as an A1 back then.

An example of this is natural display calculators, they "dumb down" some maths and mean you need the tables less (in trig for example) but would anyone seriously want to ban the use of those calculators for that reason? (natural display calculators display fractions as fractions and squared roots as squared roots rather than change everything to decimals like other calculators, which is especially handy for trig functions)

Another example of "dumbing down" in maths is that the number of proofs for formulas that have to be learned off by heart has decreased, which is no great loss for actual mathematical ability.
 

wombat

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It means that:

a 1989 LC H Maths B1
is worth (much) more than
a 2009 LC H Maths A1.

Which *is* dumbing down...
Maths results can be measured and compared. Its perfect scores in subjects like English that I can't understand - what is a perfect essay?
 

lapsedmethodist

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Messages
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Have a go at the maths papers and see if they're dumbed down or not. Can't get more scientific than that.
The leaving cert is a politicised baccalaureat examination. There's something for everyone in the audience. Average pupils get their little 250 points or so and a course somewhere. Meanwhile the state recruits its doctors and other professionals from the 550 plus level.
It's not classical education, but it works.
 

Vega1447

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Seos: It has almost certainly been "dumbed down", however the questions are; how much of that "dumbing down" was getting rid of crap that was useless and when seen like that how much more "dumbing down" needs to be done?
So the amount of work required for an A1 now might be the same as the work required for a B1 back then, however if you actually want to use that (in this case) maths for something then the current A1 is probably as good as an A1 back then.

An example of this is natural display calculators, they "dumb down" some maths and mean you need the tables less (in trig for example) but would anyone seriously want to ban the use of those calculators for that reason? (natural display calculators display fractions as fractions and squared roots as squared roots rather than change everything to decimals like other calculators, which is especially handy for trig functions)

Another example of "dumbing down" in maths is that the number of proofs for formulas that have to be learned off by heart has decreased, which is no great loss for actual mathematical ability.
Seos, I know a little about mathematics.

Mathematical ability is a combination of problem-solving ability, knowledge of the field and (I'm sorry if this seems elitist) cleverness.

Calculators, square roots, etc are baby stuff.

You won't get part week one of term one unless you are smart...
 
D

Deleted member 17573

Maths results can be measured and compared. Its perfect scores in subjects like English that I can't understand - what is a perfect essay?
I was talking to a teacher who corrects english papers and I asked him about this - apparently they correct to a kind of template of what is being asked in the question - tick all the boxes and you can get full marks - that is why I suggested earlier that students are now being taught not so much the subject as how to pass a particular exam in the particular subject. Guess it helps too if the teacher is an examiner who is fully up-to-date with the marking system.
 

rightsofman

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Joined
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Messages
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It means that:

a 1989 LC H Maths B1
is worth (much) more than
a 2009 LC H Maths A1.

Which *is* dumbing down...
I'd agree with that, I did honours maths in 95, and I think it was shortly before that time that its curriculum was changed. (is that the right word?)

Anyway, the honours maths from the early 90's and before was significantly tougher than what we had to learn. I can't comment on any other subjects.

akrasia said:
The LC is one of the toughest exams in the world, much harder than any University exams I have ever done (and I have a Masters degree)
It's not just the questions on the papers, but the fact that there are so many different subjects crammed into such a short space of time, each of which requires vast stores of information to be able to achieve an A grade.
My experience is different, I had 12 exams per year in university and the LC was much easier and more narrow in scope. Almost nothing I learned in secondary school was relevant, and the topics were much more abstract and fast moving in University. You could 'game' the LC using past papers, you could reduce the odds in your favour, and the teachers even encouraged you do it.

I think that has a lot to do with the increase in higher grades from the LC, students are being taught how to beat the exam, not learn the subject.

However, that didn't work in university where the results were graded on a curve and the variety of possible questions much larger. You never knew how well you did as it was all relevant to the best and worst performers and there were no 'guaranteed' questions, or even a guaranteed format. You didn't even know what percentage of your final result came from the exam, or tutorials, or lab sessions, or term papers. It was a nightmare lol.
 

wombat

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Joined
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Messages
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I was talking to a teacher who corrects english papers and I asked him about this - apparently they correct to a kind of template of what is being asked in the question - tick all the boxes and you can get full marks - that is why I suggested earlier that students are now being taught not so much the subject as how to pass a particular exam in the particular subject. Guess it helps too if the teacher is an examiner who is fully up-to-date with the marking system.
This is where I think the Points race fails the students. You do your Grinds, given by people who know what is required as answers, you get your points, go to college without having really studied the subject to the extent that your marks indicate and fail 1st year.
 

Seos

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Messages
153
Seos, I know a little about mathematics.

Mathematical ability is a combination of problem-solving ability, knowledge of the field and (I'm sorry if this seems elitist) cleverness.

Calculators, square roots, etc are baby stuff.

You won't get part week one of term one unless you are smart...
Maths was my favourite subject in school and I am good at it. (even though I only get to do maths for economics now)
I think the needing to be as you're suggesting smarter to do well at maths then other subjects is a load of bollocks. It isn't possible to let on that you are better at maths then you are, that is the only difference.

You won't get far in History without being smart
You won't get far in English without being smart
You might get far in Economics without being smart but God help all the people who will listen to you. :D ;)
 

Flango

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Feb 3, 2009
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I'd agree with that, I did honours maths in 95, and I think it was shortly before that time that its curriculum was changed. (is that the right word?)

Anyway, the honours maths from the early 90's and before was significantly tougher than what we had to learn. I can't comment on any other subjects.


My experience is different, I had 12 exams per year in university and the LC was much easier and more narrow in scope. Almost nothing I learned in secondary school was relevant, and the topics were much more abstract and fast moving in University. You could 'game' the LC using past papers, you could reduce the odds in your favour, and the teachers even encouraged you do it.

I think that has a lot to do with the increase in higher grades from the LC, students are being taught how to beat the exam, not learn the subject.

However, that didn't work in university where the results were graded on a curve and the variety of possible questions much larger. You never knew how well you did as it was all relevant to the best and worst performers and there were no 'guaranteed' questions, or even a guaranteed format. You didn't even know what percentage of your final result came from the exam, or tutorials, or lab sessions, or term papers. It was a nightmare lol.
I wouldn't say that, I did an engineering degree, and comparing the leaving cert and University maths, chemistry and physics, I would say that LC honours maths is a far broader course than we studied in 1st year. Some stuff we covered in the LC didn't come up in four years of advanced maths. The stuff we did cover went several levels above honours maths, but if you could hack LC maths, you had a solid preparation for this. Same thing with 1st year university chemistry and physics - no major sweat if you'd taken them at leaving cert level, and a solid intro to the next level, but in a year or so, it got a lot more complicated and in depth. Practising past papers was still the No. 1 way of studying for college exams, however, and predicting what would come up most definitely came into it.

My college finals made the LC look like a complete walk in the park, but that's partly because I was not struggling for the points to get into my course, but I most definitely struggling to get the best degree I could at the end.
 


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