If a High Court judge is asked to take a case and realises that he cannot be objective because of the circumstances, we expect him to recuse himself. Any judge who didn’t would jeopardise the fairness of the trial. So why is it that the government insists on forcing teachers to grade their own students when they feel they cannot do so objectively? Second level teachers refuse to correct Junior Cert students because they believe their students deserve a better, fairer system – and everyone, except the government, agrees.
The government has ignored teachers’ input on Junior Cert reform. The Department of Education and Skills didn’t bother to consult students who will be affected by the changes. This shouldn’t be surprising; this government also dropped plans for a referendum that could have lowered the voting age to 16.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s response to the strike was to complain about the disruption to students, no doubt attempting to appeal to parents unhappy with the strike. But teachers are not acting selfishly. They know they cannot strike for more than one day at a time, which makes it very difficult for them to leverage the government.
Teachers have their students best interests at heart, and so do parents. A child must have the best possible education – that means fair assessment, good teachers and co-operation between all concerned parties.
Relationships between teachers and students can often be fraught. Schools can be high pressure environments for both the learner and the instructor. The government must not make the student-teacher relationship harder by creating the suspicion of biased assessment.
No-one knows more about the education system than those directly involved in it – pupils, parents and teachers. The government’s top down reforms do not take into account the experiences and opinions of the people those reforms affect.
Teachers know, and students who’ve been asked agree, forcing the average teacher to correct her own students will be a failure. It will create distrust and animosity in the classroom and our schools will suffer because of it. We cannot afford to fail our young people. Failing them is failing our future.