Is this a clanger which I see before me?

16th August 1996 at 01:00
Ireland.Ireland's chief examiner for English was both amused and appalled by last year's Leaving Certificate papers, a report published this month by the government has revealed.

The education ministry has, for the first time, released all the chief examiners' reports for the Leaving Cert in the interests of open government and accountability.

Did you know, asked the English chief examiner, tongue firmly in cheek, that Lady Macbeth had invited Duncan to a "sleepover" or that without her malign influence on Macbeth's behaviour, "Duncan could be alive today". And Banquo must have been confused when the Witches told him that "his ancestors would be kings".

Student howlers aside, though, the report railed against bad grammar and suggested that many students - even very good ones - could no longer write grammatically. "Their writing is frequently illogical, muddled and at times incomprehensible. Yet they appear to think they are making sense."

The report spoke of the "mental indigestion" caused by reading many boring, stereotyped essays that lacked flair and originality. "Examiners repeatedly commented on candidates' proclivity towards writing about teenage preoccupations, towards being pessimistic and worried about the future and their place, if any, in it.

Another feature was students' use of offensive language. "Examiners do their best to be fair even to candidates who apparently go out of their way to be provocative by using such salacious language, but candidates are well advised not to rely too much on examiners' broad-mindedness and tolerance," said the report.

It concluded that many intelligent and able students were handicapped by a lack of writing skills and it was not only in English that students were losing marks because of poor literacy. The chief examiner's report for biology also remarked on the "poor standard of English and lack of precision".

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