THE OPENING DAY of the State Exams has been dubbed “pleasant, if predictable”.
The Higher Level English Paper One exam was centred around the theme of influence.
Three texts, extracts from an American novel, an English newspaper and a lecture by Seamus Heaney were all presented.
Jim Lusby, an English teacher at Dublin’s Institute of Education, said that the paper was comfortable enough, but said that the exclusion of visual literary questions was a shock.
For the first time ever, the paper as a whole excluded exploration of the visual. Since visual literacy is a core component of the syllabus and an essential skill for those of us living in the 21st century, the omission is disturbing.
“An apparent reluctance to move with the times was also evident in the question B tasks, one of which required candidates to write a letter, a form of communication that is now largely outdated.
“Moreover, the phrasing of the questions was cumbersome – the definition of the letter task, for instance, taking exactly 100 words, half the amount some candidates will write in response to it.”
At ordinary level, Lusby said the texts, Patrick de Witt’s The Sisters Brothers and autobiographies by Roy Keane and Malala Yousafzai were “impressive”.
“In praise of this year’s paper – two questions were given that required students to demonstrate visual literacy skills.
“One question invited students to appraise two images of Roy Keane and another asked them to analyse different book covers. Great questions to get students thinking.”
In Home Economics, Sandra Cleary of the Institute of Education said that the language used in higher level was confusing, but the paper was manageable.
“Some of the language used may have confused students and made straightforward topics appear more difficult than they actually were. Students who remained calm and broke down the questions would have realised it was a very manageable paper.”
She says that the ordinary level paper was “fair and accessible”, but a question on soup was “unusual”.