Written Answers. - State Examinations.

Róisín Shortall


210 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Education and Science if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the junior and intermediate certificates are not recognised in Germany as being equivalent to British O levels or the German middle exam and that this presents a difficulty for Irish students in meetings the academic qualification criteria for certain courses in Germany; if attempts have been made by his Department to correct this position; if his Department has raised this at European level; his Department's view on the standard of the junior certificate-intermediate certificate in comparison to British O levels and German middle exam; the advice his Department gives to Irish applicants who have been refused entry to German third level institutions on the grounds of the junior-intermediate certificate not being the equivalent of the German middle exam; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2817/03]

The junior certificate examination, formerly the intermediate certificate examination, is taken normally at the end of three years second level education usually around 15 years of age. The UK general certificate of secondary education, GCSE, is taken after five years second level education, usually at 16 years. The German middle examination is the final examination taken after ten years of primary and middle school usually around 16 years. In Germany, depending of which of the three types of school the student has attended, the student may then take up an apprenticeship and go on to technical education, including in some cases higher technical education, or transfer to or continue in a gymnasium type of school that enables them to enter directly to third level education after three years, that is, around 19 years.

There are no formal equivalences of education qualifications, including technical education qualifications, between EU member countries, although much work has been done on this over the past decade or so. There is normally general acceptance of educational qualifications at the end of upper secondary education, 17 to 19 years, between countries in the context of transfer to higher education. In this regard there is an established link between leaving certificate ordinary level where a grade D is taken as equivalent to a passing grade C on GCE O Level with further equivalences at leaving certificate higher level and GCE A level. While there is no established relationship between the junior certificate and the German middle examination it is my belief that, in general, they are broadly comparable, having regard to the duration of educational experience.
Given that the German middle examination does not give direct access to German third level institutions and that the junior certificate examination does not give access to third level institutions in Ireland, there is no case for direct access by Irish students with junior certificate qualifications to German third level institutions. I am not aware if the restriction referred to in the question is also connected with apprenticeship or other non-third level courses. There is no common protocol between countries. However, the recently established National Qualifications Authority of Ireland, as part of its remit, has been charged with national responsibility of developing further education qualifications in an EU context.