Article from the Jan 2005 issue of the Socialist , newspaper of the Socialist Party, Irish section of the CWI

School students All work and no play

by Stephen Rigney, Dublin SY

With the first closing dates for CAO applications looming on 1 February and the recent publication by the ESRI on part-time employment among exam-level students, the stress faced by Leaving Cert students has become even more apparent.

Already faced with the pressure that you "need" a brilliant Leaving Cert result in order to "succeed" in life, young people in Ireland are faced with even more pressure, according to the ESRI's study that shows over 60% of Leaving Cert students are engaged in part-time work.

While the study claims that "lifestyle" is largely the cause of this employment, it does accept that people from higher income backgrounds are less likely to work during exam years. Such high levels of employment raise the question of the need for a school student grant.

The survey shows that high levels of employment impact negatively on the performance of students in exams and on school attendance, and compounds the stress created by the current examination system in this country.

The current method of assessing secondary education, based on single end-of-year exams is a great contributor to the stress and ill health faced by students today. Such assessment, placing great importance on a few short hours, is a contributing factor in the high levels of suicide and depressive disorders among adolescents in Ireland.

Working class students would undoubtedly do better in school if there were smaller class sizes, and money invested in better educational resources. These changes coupled with continual assessment to evaluate a student's progress rather than the points system; and a living grant for leaving cert and third level students; would go a long way to address the imbalance and discrimination that working class young people currently face in our education system.

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