Written Answers. - State Examinations.

Mary Upton


32 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Education and Science if it is intended to implement the recommendation of the Task Force on the Physical Sciences that science should be a compulsory subject for all junior certificate students; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21759/02]

A Task Force on the Physical Sciences was set up at the end of 2000 to address the declining uptake of the physical sciences and reported in March 2002. The task force had 44 members nominated by a wide range of educational and industrial interests.

The report identified six action areas: planning and resources; equity, teaching and learning; curriculum and assessment; promotion of science; transition and integration into third level. The total costing of the proposals in the task force report amounted to €178 million for capital expenditure and €66 million for annual recurrent expenditure.

The report was circulated for consultation in April with submissions on the report invited up to 1 September. Some 30 submissions were received during this period. The consultation period was extended at the request of a number of organisations, which were consulting with their membership during September and October.

It is my intention to advance the matter further in consultation with my Government colleagues and in the light of available resources.

Mary Upton


33 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Education and Science his proposals for the reform of the leaving certificate, particularly with a view to reducing stress on students in regard to his comments at the launch of the National Parents Council exam help-line; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21760/02]

As I mentioned in my comments when launching the National Parents Council examination help-line, the receipt of exam results and the offers process that follows can bring varying degrees of joy or anxiety, celebration or stress. Times of decision are always times of stress. The most effective way to reduce this stress is to provide accurate information for students and their parents. That is why I was pleased to support the help-line operated by the Institute of Guidance Counsellors, which provided accurate, focused and specific advice.

The public and media interest in exams and their outcomes is understandable given the high value placed on the leaving certificate but it can be overwhelming for students and tends to increase rather than diminish their stress.

As regards reforming the leaving certificate, my Department has been engaged with the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment, NCCA, in an ongoing reform of the leaving certificate examination since the early 1990s. Revised syllabi have been introduced in the modern languages, gaeilge, accounting, business, music, mathematics, English, physics, chemistry, biology and home economics. The implementation of the revised syllabi has in each case been supported by extensive in-service provision for teachers. Other subjects will be revised in the coming years.

As well as revisions to the established leaving certificate, new and innovative leaving certificate options are provided for students. The leaving certificate vocational programme caters for students who want a leaving certificate qualification that prepares them consciously for the needs of the workplace. The leaving certificate applied is provided for students for whom the established leaving certificate is inappropriate.

The NCCA has currently in place a senior cycle review committee, on which my Department, teacher unions, school management organisations, third level education and the world of work are represented. When its deliberations are completed, comprehensive advice regarding the future shape of the senior cycle, including leaving certificate options and assessment, will be presented to me. The advice given to me by the NCCA will then be examined within my Department and discussed with the partners in education before any action is taken.