Ceisteanna — Questions. Oral Answers. - Certificate Examination Papers.


asked the Minister for Education how the overprinting occurred on some of the 1974 certificate examination papers; the number and the names of the subjects; the immediate action he intends to take concerning the assessment of the answers to questions on the papers involved; and the future preventive action he intends to take in the matter.

Mr. R. Burke

When the papers in mathematics and English were being printed, some discarded sheets were accidentally recycled. It was not then known that, because of the poor quality of the paper used, these sheets carried an imprint of papers previously printed.

An imprint of a portion of the leaving certificate paper in geography (ordinary level) appeared in some mathematics papers, and an imprint of portion of the intermediate certificate paper in Spanish appeared in some English papers.

All scripts in the subjects concerned will be specially scrutinised from the point of view of anomalies or variations in standard in candidates' answering, and, where deemed necessary, the school authority will be consulted before a candidate's grading in the subject is determined.

I intend to consider further the future arrangements for the confidential printing of question papers.

Were these papers printed in the Department or by an outside commercial concern?

Mr. R. Burke

By an outside commercial concern.

When the Minister talks of the assessment and correction of these papers and the involvement of the schools, does he mean that the teachers will be involved in the assessment of the pupils concerned?

The Deputy is enlarging the scope of the question.

It is already in the question.

Mr. R. Burke

I will try to be as helpful as I can. The correction of the papers will be carried out by examiners appointed by the Department of Education who, in the normal run of events, are teachers. The grades to be discussed with the school authorities will, I understand, be discussed with the school management. I can give the House an assurance that the Department of Education will take a series of steps which will ensure, beyond question that no candidates will have reason to be displeased or to feel that any candidate had an unfair advantage over him in relation to the examinations this year. To clarify the matter, higher education grants and entry to training colleges, based as they are on honours or higher level papers, are not involved.

Deputy Tunney.

Will the level of assessment be upgraded?

I have already called Deputy Tunney.

Will the Minister also safeguard the interests of students in those schools who had the good fortune to have questions put to them where they might normally indicate themselves at the level higher than a teacher would give them. Is it possible that the interests of that innocent student would also be protected in any post mortem which might occur?

Mr. R. Burke

I will bear the Deputy's point of view in mind. I can give him an assurance that this matter will be very thoroughly examined from all possible angles. A number of measures will be taken to ensure that scrupulous accuracy will prevail through the whole examination system.

Would it not be advisable for the Department to have a small printing press to print examination papers each year?

That is a separate question. The final supplementary question from Deputy MacSharry.

Can the Minister assure me that for the many thousands of students who had not access to any of the leaks the standard of assessment will not be upgraded?

Mr. R. Burke

I can assure the Deputy that no student will suffer in any way this year as a result of the imprinting which occurred in a few cases. In fact, I would be prepared to consult on a confidential basis with the Opposition spokesman on Education to show beyond doubt that what we have in mind is to carry out a scrupulously fair examination.

Arising out of the Minister's reply——

I have already indicated that Deputy MacSharry would have the final supplementary question. I am sure Deputy Murphy heard that statement.

Did the Ceann Comhairle say Deputy MacSharry's final supplementary question or the final supplementary question?

It was the end of the matter as far as the Chair was concerned. However, I will allow the Deputy his question.

The Minister mentioned the poor quality of paper. What does he intend doing to ensure that the same type of paper will not be used again? Further, what steps does he intend taking to ensure that this looseness in the system of printing will not arise in future years?

Mr. R. Burke

Apart from assuring the Deputy that it is not in the interests of the Minister for Education to have this kind of thing happen, I can tell him that I am having a very thorough investigation carried out and I will see to it that this difficulty will not arise again. I should prefer not to go into detail in regard to this matter at this point because it is at the early stage of discussion.