Imagine if you knew someone who was out trekking across the Arctic tundra - perhaps for charity - and, one evening, while having to leave the scant security of their tent to pad across the freezing expanse in search of somewhere to make toilet, they are attacked by a polar bear. Your friend and the bear thrash about in the snow, all sense of civility stripped away from the man, merely two beasts locked in a frenzied fight for survival - all bestial instinct, primal urges and fear and teeth and flesh and bone and blood. If your friend survived this fight to the death and crawled - tattered and bloodied - back to their tent, back to the feeble fabric flapping in the wind that now would surely feel like salvation, you would not look at them, look down at them, at their exhausted crumpled form, all energy spent, all effort exhausted on that simple simple yet near impossible goal - survival - and then criticise them for having gotten their jacket ripped by the claws of the bear.
That is how it feels to criticise, or call into question, the results of those who've sat their Leaving Cert today; a pedantic move of needless criticism against a group of people who are in the flushed throes of relief at having survived what, hitherto, has probably been the most difficult and trying ordeal in their lives - and perhaps, an equally large number of people feeling slightly deflated that they may not have gotten their desired results. And yet, for the purposes of this article, I must.
There has been a slight, but noticeable, drop in the number of H1s in a number of subjects this year, most notably among the majority of the major assessed foreign languages as well as in the three main subjects English, Irish and Maths across higher level. While there is typically a year on year oscillation in results, with one year the marking being adjudged to be slightly more lenient, leading to a slightly stricter approach the following year prompting a realisation that they are being overly stringent, causing the pendulum to swing back the other way.
The percentage of students who achieved a H1 in Irish has dropped from 5.3% to 4.8%, while English has fallen from 2.9% to 2.8% and Maths has droppedfrom 6% to 5.3%. That all three mandatory subjects recorded a drop in the number of H1s awarded perhaps points to the examiners being told to enforce a stricter approach to marking.
Aside from the the drop in H1s in these three subjects there was a notable drop in the number of students receiving H1s in the more major languages. French dropped from 6% to 5.7%; German 5.6% to 5.2%; Spanish 8.6% to 7.3%; Italian 12.9% to 10.2%; Russian, from a remarkably high, 71.6% - 63.7%, and Polish from 11.7% to 9.2%.
While it can always feel a bit 'conspiracy theorist' attempting to read any grander narrative into these results, as they do oscillate year on year, the fact that essentially every major language assessed noted a drop in the number of H1s awarded does seem peculiar.
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