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Opinion: Ireland's Obsession With The Leaving Cert Is Dangerous

Opinion: Ireland's Obsession With The Leaving Cert Is Dangerous

The Leaving Cert results are in and already the most shared information on social media is anecdotal support and mindfulness which, frankly, never surprises me.

While we might remind students that the Leaving Cert doesn't mean anything, the furore surrounding the Leaving Cert annually tells them otherwise. Lighting candles and saying prayers to St. Anthony might seem hilarious now, light-years after doing the Leaving Cert, but at what cost? A terrified 17-year-old dreading failure and living on their nerves?

Not only are Leaving Cert students terrified, their families are led to believe that if they don't score the perfect test result or get X amount of points for their CAO course they're essentially worthless to society.

In 2008 I chose a degree in a college I did not want to go to. Terrified to take a year out and wait for my dream course to accept me, I panicked and jumped into a four-year course that barely resembled what I'd spent all year studying for.

My time would've been better spent sitting on a desert island chatting to a volley ball. Looking back, it was a rash decision based on a fear drummed up by societies expectations of young people. Of course, hindsight is a gift.

Our obsession with the Leaving Cert is dangerous because it bases a person's intellectual ability on outdated exams and standards prescribed by 'experts'. The phenomenal emphasis placed on the Leaving Cert is dangerous. Students deprive themselves of sleep through excessive studying and through the fact that the all pervasive anxiety and dread inculcated by the Leaving Cert robs them of the ability to ever truly 'switch off'. The repetitious hammering home that "if you fail Maths, English or Irish, you'll never go to college" constantly fuels the fire and - while failing these, or any subjects is far from ideal, there are many alternate routes into college. Some universities even offer alternate access routes into courses for people who have failed to achieve the necessary grade in a particular subject. For example CIT offer supplemental Maths exams for anyone who didn't get the requisite grade for entry to one of their courses. Our obsession with the Leaving Cert is dangerous because it limits our own sense of self and belief in our own abilities independent of a prescribed set of exams.

Just like Catholicism ruled over Ireland for centuries, we rely too heavily on educational institutions to structure our lives. Today, the impact of these institutions can be found scattered all over the internet, in comment sections and Twitter responses, waiting for its next batch of Leaving Cert students to stand in line, close their eyes and hold their breath as they wait to be told their fate:

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To Leaving Cert students who got their results today, I have these words of advice: Go out, enjoy yourself and remember: you don't need to be 'book smart' or able to recite fragments of information to get on with life. You're your own person, and failure, whatever that might look like or you're told it looks like, entirely depends on how you think about yourself.

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Also Read: A Student Is Studying Love Island For Her University Degree

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Garret Farrell

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