Drawing a conclusion

It's that time of year again.

55,000 sorry little sods are heading in to start their Leaving Certificate exams.

Back in my day, there were three exams – the Primary, the Intermediate [always known as The Inter] and the Leaving Certificates.  The Primary was usually sat by ten or eleven year olds and it was the gateway to such esoteric professions as office boys or delivery boys.  The Inter came a few years later at around fifteen or sixteen and opened up the field of opportunity considerably.  Walk into an interview with a good Inter and you were in with a chance.  Then came the Leaving.  That was the killer and was the gateway to University or practically anything that took your fancy.

Nowadays, they have wimped the whole thing down.  Now they only have to sit two exams – the Junior and the Leaving.  The Junior is pretty much worthless and is merely a trial run for the Leaving.  The Leaving also is pretty worthless and is only a stepping stone to Third Level.  To get a job as a burger flipper these days you have to at least have a Masters in Astrophysics so I don't know what all the fuss over the Leaving is about.

I hated exams.  I hated them so much that I ignored them.  I completely put them out of my mind in the hopes that they would go away.  Of course they didn't and the day of the first paper would arrive and I wouldn't have done a tap of study.  I believed [and still do] on living life on a wing and a prayer.

I didn't do too badly in my Inter.  I got a few passes and a few honours, and my highest mark was for Drawing.  That was strange as I hadn't even had a lesson in the subject and had only put my name down for a laugh.  That says something about the system, but I'm not sure what.

I managed a scrape through the Leaving also, and once again my highest marks were for Drawing.  Once again I hadn't had a single lesson as my school didn't do the subject.  Weird.

I went on to third level to study Electronics.  I'm not sure why, as I wasn't particularly interested in the subject.  I would have preferred Cartography but the only decent job there was in the Ordnance Survey and at the time you had to join the army for that.  I have my limits.  Part of the Electronics course was Mechanical Drawing and each year I sailed through the exams hitting the high nineties and one exam ringing the bell at the magic 100%.

I finally graduated from Third Level with a piece of paper that was essentially useless.  You see, they had spent three years teaching me about the Thermionic Valve [with a passing mention of the transistor], and I entered a world where the Thermionic Valve was as dead as a dinosaur, and the Silicon Chip was the rising star.  I was redundant before I even started.

With my useless certificates, I picked six companies at random, and wrote to them begging for a job.  Four replied and i got called for two interviews.  I got offered two jobs and took both, but that's another story.

The strange thing about the whole affair though was that I was never particularly interested in drawing.

Maybe I'm a reincarnation of Leonardo da Vinci?

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Drawing a conclusion — 18 Comments

  1. Back when I was in school, we had a leaving cert (SAT) and that was it.  I was always nervous when taking exams and it showed.  Once I got to college, I learned to laugh at the exams and the humourless Exam Givers.  Pointing out grammatical errors in an Exam really irritates Professors but makes the whole process worthwhile. 

  2. In contradiction to you, I loved examinations.   I have a photographic memory and I completed my notebook with various coloured pencils.   During the Exams I was able to imagine the page and any diagram or formula in my mind's eye and reproduce them.

    • Photographic memory is cheating!  One of the reasons I never studied was that I could never remember their facts.  I always liked to work things out for myself my way, which strangely never seemed to be their way.

  3. I was setting up a screen in a school exam hall last year at Leaving Cert time and there was a box of blank paper arrived for the students. Proudly emblazoned across the outside of the cardboard box was the legend : "Examination Stationary"   I wonder if a student used such a mistake in an English exam would it be ok or even spotted?, I sent the photo to Ruairi Quinn but never heard anything !!!

  4. I think there was a new story earlier this week about a room used for examinations at Plymouth University in Devon that had a poster warning students not to cheat. On the poster was a picture of a hand with equations written on. The equations included material for the exams the students were taking. 

  5. In the good/bad old days the bicycle delivery boys with their Primary Certs had to be able to read so they could effectively deliver the deliveries. Nowadays some B.A. and B.Sc. grads can hardly write a winning betting slip.

    Grandad, you have touched on the educational and social value of first, second and third level certificates and learning methodologies. The time for your intellectual and pedagogical leadership is here and now. Our second and third level educators are churning out too many semi-literates who cannot read the racing pages of the Independent and the Mail with insight. The bookies and the page 3 girls are enhancing their assets and laughing all the way to the bank. Ruairi Quinn must urgently be alerted.

    • Are you suggesting I should take over from Quinn?  I would be quite happy to, but it would have to be under the condition that everyone [and I mean EVERYONE] else would have to go too.  I couldn't work with any of the current crowd.  Bastards and crooks, the lot of 'em.

  6. GD, I love the title.

    I provide grinds for people in college and the one thing I try to drill into them is that what you learn in college most likely won't be of any use to you at all.  What you learn in college is how to learn independently. In school, it's drilled into you. In college, it's either sink or swim. It's up to them.  I wish someone had told me this in college because for 3 out of the 4 years I was absolutely sick of all the outdated courses.  I left knowing a lot about asp but nothing about asp.net.  Absolutely useless! The first time I sat in front of a server was when I left.  There was no oppertunity to get exposure to server operating systems.  I have no idea what kind of job they thought we'd get after graduating.  Now, I'm employing people who are just out of college and it's worse! they are learning development languages that the industry doesn't need, they have terrible troubleshooting skills and absolutely no independent thought or drive. My best person has been working for me for a year now. she's absolutely fantastic but still, if she needs to do something out of the ordinary, I have to hold her hand through it.  I might add, I'm only out of college 10 years.  As an employer and as a student it's equally frustrating.

    • My theory is that exams have nothing to do with teaching a trade or profession but are merely an indicator that you can pass an exam.  For the years I spent in college I never once used anything I had learned there [apart from drinking and some great card games!].  Every scrap of knowledge that I ended up using was gained on the job.  A few years ago, I did part time teaching in FÁS and nearly everything I taught is now redundant.  You can't beat real life work experience for learning a job.

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