Archive | June, 2012

Leaving Cert Begins

6 Jun

Today is the first day of the Leaving Cert, the Irish college entrance exams by which high school students gain admission to universities. The testing period goes on for two and a half weeks and tests all the basic subjects. Students find out their scores and where they will be attending college in mid-August. My daughter’s Irish friends are all sitting for the exams and so there was a lot of well-wishing going on Facebook last night.

Many countries use examinations to determine admission: China, India, Japan, Taiwan, Ireland, the United Kingdom, Turkey, the list goes on. I don’t know which is more stressful, the American way of applying to colleges or these national entrance exams. I know when I lived in Taiwan, the pressure and awareness of the importance of college entrance exams began at a young age, during middle school. I heard tragic stories of students committing suicides because they could not get into college. When such a story surfaces, there would be the inevitable hand wringing over the immense pressures borne by students. Around the time Leaving Cert results are released, the Irish newspapers run articles about handling disappointing scores, along with articles cautioning against excessive celebrating and drinking (legal drinking age in Ireland is 18).

Having just gone through the college application process, I have come to appreciate that there is a college for every level of student performance, here in America. Anyone who desires to attend college should be able to find a school and, based on my experience, there is a dizzying array of choices. Where we lack and other countries excel, is making college affordable without saddling graduates with enormous debt. We just received an estimate of tuition for one year at Barnard College and the figure approaches $42,000. In contrast, tuition at Trinity College Dublin is approximately $2,600.

Best of luck to everyone taking the Leaving Cert.

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