“The CAO system may be blunt but it is also transparent, anonymous and impartial. There is certainly room for improvement but it is vital that any new system of admitting school leavers to higher education command credibility among the public and not be open to criticisms of bias,” according to Fianna Fáil Seanad Spokesperson on Education and Skills, Averil Power.
Senator Power has welcomed the review of the CAO system which was announced by the Minister for Education and Skills Ruairí Quinn.
“There is no doubt that the current system does not adequately measure students’ suitability for a particular third level course or profession.
“However, a significant advantage of the points system is that it is anonymous and transparent. By contrast, criticisms of bias and of parents using connections to secure college places for their children are commonplace in other countries. It is important that any new system have the confidence of the people.”
Senator Power has also stressed the need for curriculum and exam reform.
“CAO points are often considered to be the cause of all of the ills of our second level education system. However, problems such as rote-learning and teaching to the test result as much from our current curriculum and examination methods system, as they do from the CAO points system.
“We need to change how knowledge and skills are taught and examined in our schools, in order to ensure that our young people develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Reforms to key curricula in recent years have been an important step in that direction. But it is important that the momentum for curriculum and exam reform is maintained,” Senator Power concluded.