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The problem with the CAO system

Does it really have to be so stressful?

Written by Cornelia O Riordan and posted in opinion

This is an opinion of a young person and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of It is one person's experience and may be different for you. If you'd like to write something for please contact

"I was fortunate enough to be offered a place on a college course but unfortunately many young people aren’t that fortunate and are left without an alternative option."

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We all know that growing up in Ireland can be great craic, whether you’re from the countryside or the city I’m sure we all have some very fond memories of running around in the summer as a little child. Although coming from a farming background I was usually running after cattle. (Just adding to the stereotypical image of an Irish child here)

Ireland is a gorgeous country to grow up in, it has countless positives attached to it, but it most definitely also has its negatives.

Take our country’s education system. Looking at it from the positive side of the argument Ireland has an extremely high level of young people attending third level institutions. We’re quite lucky with the many colleges and universities in our country, as they’re highly regarded within the educational standing ranks of Europe.

From many conversations with various friends I’ve come to the conclusion that the negative side of Ireland’s education system is indeed directly connected to people’s experiences in secondary school, whether it is bullying, study pressure, or problems with the CAO or points system. Although Ireland’s CAO and points system seems to work pretty well, seeing as so many young people go on to attend third level Institutions. On the other hand it is a cause of stress and worry for thousands of young people around the country on a daily basis. The points system connected to the leaving cert can put an extreme amount of pressure on young people and I personally believe that it is not the most appropriate system because of this.

It’s all fun and games leading up to results day, you might have your perfect college pictured in your head; you may even already have accommodation booked and paid for. But what if you don’t get the points required for the course? Or the points are raised drastically with no warming. It’s a horrible feeling; I know it from my own personal experience. It is certainly hard to look at the bright side of things if that happens to you, because there really is no bright side. I was fortunate enough to be offered a place on a college course but unfortunately many young people aren’t that fortunate and are left without an alternative option.

You could repeat the leaving cert, do a PLC course, take a year out or just go on the search for a job or apply for social welfare. Although I have already mentioned the high level of Irish youth in third level education, there is always the other side of the story. There is also a high level of Irish young people relying on social welfare as their only income due to a variety of circumstances, some beyond their control. There is always a negative to every positive.

What are your positive and negative stories about living in Ireland? Email or leave a comment below.

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Published March 19th, 2014
Last updated April 3rd, 2014
Tags cao exams
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