An analysis of national newspaper coverage relating to the Leaving Certificate programme in two newspapers in the Republic of Ireland

Orla McCormack, Jim Gleeson, Tom O’Donoghue

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

The Leaving Certificate programme in Ireland is a two year programme for upper second-level students and culminates in them sitting externally-set high stakes State examinations. Students’ experiences of the programme are dominated by these assessment demands and the level of media coverage of these examinations has been deemed ‘extraordinary’ by external observers. Drawing on 790 articles from two national newspapers across a four year time period (July 2013–July 2017), this paper provides, for the first time, an overview on the nature of the media coverage offered in this mode. Thematic analysis of the articles reveals a heavy emphasis on technical and instrumental aspects of the programme. Priority is placed on providing practical advice regarding the application process for a college place along with study skills and examination tips. Overall, a consensualist view of Irish students is reflected in the assumption that all wish to progress to higher education. Higher-level examinations are afforded more importance than ‘ordinary’ level papers and there is a focus on high-achieving academic students. There are also indicative silences that relate to less ‘distinguished’ aspects of the Leaving Certificate. The paper concludes by raising a number of related concerns.

Original languageEnglish
JournalIrish Educational Studies
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 20 Sep 2019

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