Vice Provost and Chief Academic Officer, Chris Morash, has called for changes in the Irish secondary school exam system, in an article for the Irish Independent.
In the article, Morash outlined the need for the Irish education system to change to meet the evolving demands for the workforce in Ireland. The Vice Provost also questioned the relevance of exam curriculum material and whether this system of examination encourages creativity. In an explanation of how the education system is lacking in encouragement of creativity and independent thought, he states that “on most papers, the eager student who strays beyond the prescribed material is penalised for introducing matter that is ‘not relevant’”.
Morash continued: “It is hard to see how an exam that rewards the things robots do well – predictable tasks carried out to a template – helps make Irish students robot-proof.”
The need to prepare students for jobs which have not yet been created was emphasised in OECD report, Education at a Glance, published in September. The report confirmed the importance of upper secondary school education for successful labour market integration. Morash continued to say that “students will need enhanced digital literacy…a passion for new ideas, curiosity, creativity and entrepreneurship, understood in its fullest sense – all of those things that machines can never do better than humans”.
This article follows further criticism of the education system from the Vice-Provost last year. In the Irish Times he outlined the “expectation of special treatment around exams”. He further expressed that “if there’s a question that isn’t predicted in the Leaving, it’s treated as a national crisis in some quarters…this doesn’t happen elsewhere around the world; it’s bizarre.” Morash noted the issues this leads to for students when starting university, due to an expectancy from students for notes from lecturers, as opposed to learning the skills of digesting and summarising information themselves.
In an interview for Trinity News in 2016, Prof Morash acknowledged that changes within Trinity’s own examination system would not be easy. He noted that “the way that the curriculum works now has grown up over a lot of years. That’s the make it better piece, there’s also the make it work piece…We’re trying to iron that out as well so that the entire system will run more smoothly. And then once things run more smoothly, it’s easier to move from one piece to the next.”