The Junior Cycle Framework 2015 sets out Government policy in relation to Junior Cycle. Under that Framework students can take between 8 and a maximum of 10 subjects for final examination and for reporting through the Junior Cycle Profile of Achievement (JCPA). The maximum of 10 subjects was designed to provide a broad curriculum experience to students, while allowing for the adequate depth of study of the subject matter, as well as avoiding stress to students as a result of taking a higher number of subjects (Students taking the old CPSE exam, being examined for the last time in 2019, are permitted to take 11 subjects this year).
Changes to the curriculum and polices that affect students are not made lightly. The Framework was published following a complete review of the earlier junior cycle programme, involving consultation with a wide range of education stakeholders including students. The changes to the number of subjects a student should study were notified to schools in 2014 when schools were advised to begin limiting the overall number of subjects they offer to students for certification and that a limit of ten subjects for certification will be in place for students entering first year in September 2015. This advice has been repeated in advice issued to schools in the years since 2014, including Circular 0015/2017 (superseded by 0079/2018). It was also included in an information leaflet produced for parents of post-primary students. 2018 was the first year in which Junior Certificate students were required to sit no more than 10 subjects under Circular 0015/2017.
The majority of schools promptly followed the instruction issued by this Department and advised students of the maximum number of subjects permitted. Students would in a number of cases have reduced the number of subjects they were taking.
The student is at the heart of the policy set out in the Framework for Junior Cycle. The Framework embodies a number of features designed to provide a learning experience that addresses the needs of the 21st century. It presents a curriculum designed for all students, not just for some. Under the Framework students study subjects in greater depth. Students are more likely to retain the knowledge as they have opportunities to apply their learning in a number of different contexts, engage in research, investigation and experimentation and present their work in a variety of different modes. They are encouraged to think critically and reflect on and evaluate their own learning, either as individuals or in collaboration with their peers. The Framework supports the move away from rote learning and instead is designed to help the students to become better learners, and better citizens. This is done through embedding key skills for successful learning across the curriculum and for learning beyond school. More relevant learning like this leads to deeper learning and achievement.