Defining the JCSP
Every year a small group of students leave post-primary education without qualifications, some of them without attempting any of the State examinations. For many of these young people, their experience of school has been one of failure and alienation.
In this context the department of education set out to develop “an alternative pathway towards the aims and educational standards of the Junior Certificate” for those students most at risk of failure or early drop out. The resulting programme developed by the national Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) in conjunction with the Curriculum Development Unit (CDU) of County Dublin V.E.C., is known as the Junior Certificate Schools Programme. The JCSP has essentially been designed “to ensure that young people can benefit from their time in school and enjoy the experience of improvement and success.” This is to be achieved by providing a curriculum framework that will assist schools and individual teachers in adopting a student entered approach to the Junior Certificate especially aimed at those young people who show signs of school failure by early leaving.
The Approach of the JCSP
The programme involves:
Analysing students’ strengths and weaknesses and taking note of any recurring difficulties. Planning programmes of work which both build on students’ abilities and address the main obstacles which hinder their progress. Engaging in dialogue with young people and their parents regarding their needs and their progress in school.
The programme acknowledges that all students are different such as attempts to facilitate teachers in developing responses which are appropriate to a variety of different situations and requirements. In addition it provides an official record of skills, knowledge and achievement which students have attained at the end of their time in full-time education, validated by the Department of Education. This record is contained in a profile which is presented to students in either May or September.
The Overall Aim of JCSP
The programme sets out to make the experience of school relevant and accessible to those young people who find it difficult to cope with the school system and would benefit from special support in working towards the aims of the Junior Certificate. According to the White paper Charting our Education Future published in 1995 these general aims promote:
- Competence and literacy, numeracy and spoken language skills which will allow them to participate as young adults in society.
- Experience in various areas of activity – artistic, intellectual, scientific, physical and practical.
- Formative experience in moral, religious and spiritual education.
- Knowledge and supportive guidance in matters of personal health, sexual awareness and relationships.
- Competence and understanding in practical skills including computer literacy and information technology .
- Knowledge and appreciation of social, cultural and physical heritage and environment.
- Understanding and appreciation of the central concepts of citizenship.
In addition to reinforcing the general aims of the junior certificate, this programme addresses the main obstacles which hinder some young people’s success in their second level career. These difficulties include:
- The lack of certain basic knowledge and skills which are necessary for coping in the second level school. This includes competence in literacy and numeracy.
- Difficulties with social interaction not only with teachers, but with peers. Students who have prolonged experience of failure in school often lack self-confidence and have poor self esteem. This can affect their academic performance as well as their social experience in school.
- The number and variety of subjects and subject teachers in second level schools, which contrast with the more integrated experience of the primary school. The fragmentation of the subject centred curriculum can be especially problematic for some young people at the transfer stage between primary and post primary school.
The JCSP provides schools and teachers with a focus for identifying and addressing these issues before they develop into major problems. It will also assist teachers to take appropriate action if these are already causing young people to have difficulties with school.
The JCSP Curriculum Strategy
The Curriculum strategy for the programme involves:
- Cross-curricular work which helps to locate discrete skills and knowledge in a meaningful context reinforces learning across subject boundaries and promotes team-work among teachers. It also continues the integrated thematic approach to the primary school.
- Basic skills development relevant to many areas of the curriculum and which are important for managing daily life both inside and outside school. These include, but are not confined to literacy and numeracy.
- Personal and social development which enhances self esteem and the ability to relate well to other people. All areas of the curriculum have the potential to contribute here.