Leaving Cert

There were over 50,000 candidates for the Leaving Certificate in 2006. More than 60 per cent of them took higher-level English. About a quarter took higher-level French but only a small proportion took any other language – the next highest being German with 9 per cent taking it at higher-level.


Whereas over a third took higher-level biology, only about 20 per cent took either physics or chemistry at higher level. Less than 10 per cent took mathematics at higher level. The numbers taking business-related subjects – business, construction studies, accounting, engineering, economics, agricultural science, applied maths, technical drawing and agricultural economics – at a higher level was very high (an aggregate of these numbers is misleading because many students will have taken more than one of these subjects).

Only 14 per cent took higher-level history, less than 1.5 per cent took higher-level classical studies, and a mere two per cent took Latin – that was a compulsory subject for university entrance up to 30 years ago. Less then 10 students took Greek.

Teachers should be accountable

The 50,000-plus candidates who sat the Leaving Certificate this year will be judged on the results. No one will take account of the caliber of teaching in the schools they attended, nor the facilities at those schools, nor their home backgrounds (whether educationally supportive or not), nor whether their parents were able to afford grinds. Their futures will be determined in some measure by the unadorned results.

So, if it is fair to judge students by their Leaving Certificate results, is it unfair to judge schools by the same criteria? Mary Hanafin said on The Tubridy Show on Tuesday morning it would be unfair to the schools to judge them by Leaving Certificate results because that would not take account of a load of sociological factors that had a bearing on the results. Yes, but doesn't that argument apply to students as well? And if it is ok to assess students on the basis of the results, why not the schools?

The publication of such information would highlight socio-economic problems in certain areas, problems which could be addressed by further investment of resources or teachers. This information might also highlight inadequate teaching and, one suspects, the real reason for the refusal to publish results arises from the unwillingness of the teaching profession to be accountable, with the complicity of the Department of Education.


Numbers taking higher level Leaving Certificate courses 2006

English 30,445

Geography 17,788

Biology 17,048

French 13,431

Irish 12,948

Business 12,856

Mathematics 9,018

Home ec 8,200

Art 7,440

History 6,975

Construction 6,497

Chemistry 5,712

Physics 5,200

Accounting 4,967

German 4,774

Music 4,287

Engineering 3,439

Economics 3,407

Agricultural sci 3,017

Spanish 1,375

Applied maths 1,245

Tech drawing 2,921

Classical studies 720

Phys/chem 458

Religious edu 290

Russian 158

Italian 150

Arabic 110

Agricult. econ 73

Japanese 55

Lithuanian 45

Dutch 22

Portuguese 22

Polish 20

Latvian 16

Ten or fewer candidates took the following higher-level courses: Ancient Greek, Modern Greek, higher-level Swedish, Hungarian, Estonian, higher-level Slovakian, Hebrew Studies, Danish and Czech


Landmines in Dun Laoghaire

An exhibit at the Dun Laoghaire Festival of World Cultures, starting next Friday, draws attention to the human cost of landmines in one of the world's poorest countries.

Irish charity Comhlamh's Opening Eyes exhibition, will feature a specially modified motorbike – it carries a mobile cinema – which recently toured around Afghanistan's rugged terrain to educate children about the dangers of landmines.

Afghanistan's healthcare is among the world's worst the and it is one of the world's most heavily mined countries. Despite ongoing clearance programs, over 30 million square kilometers are still covered with landmines or unexploded ordinance from decades of conflict. Many landmine casualties die before they can reach medical care.

According to the International Red Cross (IRC), there have been over 100,000 landmine victims in Afghanistan over the last 25 years. Although numbers of victims are slowly decreasing, IRC's most recent figures show that in 2004, 128 people were killed and over 800 injured by landmines or cluster bombs. Forty per cent of landmine casualties are children. One-fifth are under 15 years old.

No Strings is an inter-national charity that uses puppetry and theatre for educational projects. It does work in Indonesia on Tsunami safety and counselling, in Africa on HIV prevention, and in Afghanistan to help people overcome the trauma of the region's endless conflict.

No Strings produced a film for its landmines project, with Kathryn Mullen and Michael Frith (who created puppets for Sesame Street). The film is in both Pashtu and Dari, the main languages of Afghanistan. They used the specially modified bike to reach otherwise inaccessible areas.

Over 150 countries have signed the International Mine Ban Treaty since 1997. The International Campaign to Ban Landmines continues to lobby countries that have not, like United States, China, India and the Russian Federation. The United States mined extensively when it invaded Afghanistan in 2001 to attack the Taliban.

erik salholm


Irish animation at Toronto film fest

Irish animated feature film The Ugly Duckling and Me will have its world première next month at the renowned Toronto Film Festival.

The film is a modern take on the Hans Christian Anderson fairytale and is a European co-production between Ireland, Denmark, France and Germany. It has been selected for a showcase of the best international children's cinema.

The film is written by Irish screenwriter Mark Hodkinson and features the voice talents of many Irish actors including Morgan Jones, Paul Tylak and Barbara Bergin. The film will go on release in Ireland next year. erik salholm

Poll shows drop in support for Israeli leadership

A poll released on 16 August demonstrates a continued decrease in public support for Israeli government. Sixty-three per cent of Israelis polled said they were not happy with the defense minister Amir Perezt's handling of the conflict with Lebanon. Thirty-six per cent saying they thought he performed well; 57 per cent thought he should resign. 51 per cent felt the prime minister, Ehud Olmert (pic), also dealt with the conflict badly. In contrast, support for the Israeli Defense Forces was 94 per cent while only 14 per cent approved of the government's handling of the conflict overall. The poll was conducted by the Maariv newspaper, one of Israel's newspapers of record.



Greasy drains in Temple Bar

Outdated planning laws are allowing restaurants in the Temple Bar area to pour grease into the local drainage system resulting in sewers becoming blocked and malodorous. Buildings covered by more recent environmental planning rules stipulate that all restaurants should have their drains fitted with grease traps to prevent them from clogging the system. However, some older buildings originally designated for residential or retail use, have been converted into restaurants with no changing of designation. As a result, grease traps have not been fitted and the waste builds up, causing sewage blockages around the area. According to Paul O'Toole of Temple Bar Cultural Trust the high density and turnover of restaurants in Temple Bar has compounded the problem. JESSIE COLLINS


'Like ecstasy, but cleaner'

Recreational drugs that have similar effects to illicit substances such as ecstasy are on sale in Temple Bar in Dublin – and completely legally.

PEP pills, Jax pills and others are being sold from the Head Shop in Temple Bar as alternatives to illegal drugs.

One ecstasy user who took Jax Pills x5, one of the strongest substances available in the shop, said, "It was like ecstasy, but cleaner. The high lasted about six hours. It gave feelings of euphoria and allowed me to stay up all night and feel great. And it didn't have the dirty come-down that ecstasy has."

Another ecstasy user who tried the Jax pills said, "I found it almost impossible to sleep and felt pretty weird the next day. When I went to bed the following night I slept for 14 hours. But they were pretty nice – very clear."

The drugs range in price from ?8 to ?12 and are only sold to over 18s. The owners of the shop say the drugs are selling rapidly. The Jax pills warn users not to "double drop" – ie take more than one at a time – and not to drink alcohol when taking them.

The fastest selling brand are Piperazines, which are marketed as 'PEP pills' and contain a blend of benzylpiperazine (BZP) and other less potent chemicals from the Piperazine family. They are sold as an alternative to ecstasy's active ingredient, MDMA. Originally synthesised from the pepper plant, BZP was formerly used for treating parasites in cattle and on its own acts like a mild stimulant, about 10 per cent of the strength of speed. When combined with other Piperazine chemicals the effects are more euphoric, even psychedelic. BZP is also in the same class as Viagra.

The shop also sells herbal alternatives to ecstasy, which are not as strong.

Earlier this year, the Department of Health banned magic mushrooms which had been on sale in shops in Temple Bar.

Jessie Collins



Israeli v Lebanese deaths since 12 July

So far in the conflict with Lebanon, 155 Israelis have died with 1,114 losses being reported on the Lebanese side. The figures list the casualties up until 16 August and record that 161 Israeli's and 3,697 Lebanese have been injured. According to the Lebanese government, 973,334 of their citizens have been displaced since 12 July, some of which have reportedly begun to return home as the UN-brokered truce takes effect. Jessie Collins


Mobile phone-sized breathalysers now in Ireland

There is a nifty new gadget on the market that can measure your alcohol level and help you avoid being caught by random breath-testing. The device, called the 'alcoholyser', is already in use in other countries but this is the first time it has been promoted here. The alcholyser is the size of a mobile phone and measures your breath alcohol concentration in 30 seconds. It has been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration and their Department of Transport. ?More ?89 from www.testers.ie


Bray station gets name back

The Dart station at Bray has its proper name reinstated this week. Bray Dart station's correct name is Bray/Daly Dart station in memory of Ned Daly, an Easter Rising partriot. Daly was the youngest of the Easter patriots to hold the rank of commandeer and was in charge of the Four Courts battalion. That area of the city saw some of the most intense fighting during the Rising. He was 25 years old when executed by the British in May 1916.

In 1966, to mark the 50th anniversary of the Easter Rising, the de Valera government announced that stations all over Ireland would be renamed after Irish patriots. Hence Pearse, Hueston and Connolly station. At that time Bray's name changed to Bray/Daly but the name disappeared with the arrival of the Dart.

There has been a two-year campaign by local Sinn Féin councillor John Brady to have the Daly name reinstated.

Dún Laoghaire station was also given an alternative name commemorating Easter Rising patriot Michael Mallin in 1966. This has also fallen out of use. Mallin was the second in command in the Irish Citizen Army and was in charge of the garrison at St Stephen's Green along with Countess Markievicz. He was executed in May 1916.