Opinion: The new Leaving Cert process omits a certain type of student – the crammer
11th May 2020
As the State announces Leaving Cert grades will be based on a student’s predicted results from their year at school, I’m lamenting the quiet crammers
In school, I was a nerd — plain and simple. This isn’t to lament or self-deprecate, it’s simply a statement of fact. I cared very much about academics and school and potential colleges, and wasn’t shy about letting others know that.
I talked outwardly about being stressed, I regularly asked teachers’ advice on how to make my work better, and pretty much everyone around me knew where my head was at when it came to the state exams.
Others were not like me. Others carried their burden silently, studied and revised and recited notes quietly to themselves, and didn’t allow what was pretty substantial levels of stress for everyone reach the surface. Were they worse students for that? No, definitely not — in fact, many got better grades than their more vocal counterparts.
When it came to studying behaviours, I was your classic burn-out. I did my best to chip away at the massive workload of the Leaving Cert throughout the year, regularly reduced to tears at the weight of it all, and when it came to the actual two weeks of exams, I was exhausted.
My last exam was Chemistry, a week after everyone else had finished, and I was so completely wrecked at that stage that I barely got through it to achieve my lowest grade.
Others were crammers. They operated at a base level of absorbing information in class and doing homework, leaving the Trojan workload of revision to the end of the year, immediately before the exams. A bold move, yes, considering the sheer amount of information involved, but that’s just how some people’s brains work. They work well under pressure, they operate at their best when their goal is immediately within reach, not a mirage on the summery horizon a few months away.
Again, these students were not worse students —their methods worked, and often, they achieved better grades than the planners and organisers.
The point I’m trying to make here is that, along with the massive emotional strain the new Leaving Cert process is having on students, it will have a really adverse effect on the silent crammers.
While I could pontificate for days about everything that is wrong with the Leaving Cert, the one thing I can say about it is that it’s anonymous. No one knows how much study you did or didn’t do, no one knows if you chipped away all year or crammed until 4am the night before, and no one knows how enthusiastically you participated in class discussions about King Lear.
Anonymity is a Godsend for the quiet, reserved, work-at-their-own-pace types, and that’s why it works here. I am a strong believer in not policing the way people work — if they get the work done, then there’s no need to modify or criticise how they do it. I hate workplace cultures that favour loudmouths over quiet consistency — that rewards pointless contributions in meetings rather than focusing on where the real great work is coming from.
The Leaving Cert, for all its flaws, agrees with me on this — no matter who you are, what your personality is like, how you like to work, the final result is all you will be graded on. For better or worse, everyone is treated the same — crammers, planners and all.
While I am no expert in the field of education, and I cannot imagine how difficult it must be for the Department to find a solution to this issue, I am still sending my salute to all the students out there who will suffer from this new process. The ones who were waiting to shine, only to have the chance snatched away, it’s just another thing we can hate Covid-19 for.
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