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Pressures of the Leaving Cert

What about your physical and mental health during the leaving cert?

Written by Tara O'Sullivan 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

"Do not let the leaving cert dictate your future and the person who you are. You can and you will achieve in wherever your path in life takes you."

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I know that the leaving cert is important for jobs later on in life and even for college in September of that year (if you choose to go that is) but why is there such an enormous amount of pressure put on students these days to achieve high marks in the leaving cert and to become so called ‘successful?’ The education system has become very unfair as it puts too much pressure on students to succeed in their academic careers.   

The newest CAO points system shows this by incorporating an extra 25 points towards higher level maths, 100 points awarded for a H1 in higher level subjects and only 56 points awarded for an O1 in ordinary level subjects. The points system has pushed students to do higher level subjects in order to get these grades but what about the students who have difficulty in subjects (learning difficulties such as dyslexia, mental health issues etc.) and who can't deal with the stress of the leaving cert?

An article published in stated that "there is no sense that the Leaving Certificate is the be-all and end-all of your life. Yes, it is important but your results should not determine your self-worth." This statement really speaks for itself. You don't need to get all honours in your leaving cert to live a happy and successful life, all you need to do is to do your best. 

"It was irrelevant whether you were physically and mentally healthy as long as you got 600 points in your Leaving Certificate." This was another statement displayed in the article. I myself have mental health issues and I was told not to put myself under too much stress but sometimes when you say this to people within the educational system such as teachers, it seems that they simply don't care.

I once spoke to someone in my school about my options after the leaving cert. I stated that I was considering going to CIT (Cork Institute of Technology). The course is less points than UCC but it is effectively the same course. She seemed to be dumbfounded as to why I wanted to go to an institute of technology rather than an established university. When I mentioned that UCC was second on my CAO course choice list, her eyes lit up and she became more focused on what I was saying. The fact that I suffer from both anxiety and depression did not occur to her at all.

Ireland's educational system really is an unfair one. Your grades seem to dictate your future. Not your personality, not your spirit, not your behaviour in class or if for example you are good at languages but struggle with maths and science. No, these traits do not matter in our education system. All they care about is the attention they will receive once a leaving cert student graduates to become a garda, a doctor, a scientist, an astronaut or a teacher. 

Do not let the leaving cert dictate your future and the person who you are. You can and you will achieve in wherever your path in life takes you.

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Published Feb­ru­ary 5th2018
Last updated July 30th2018
Tags mental health wellbeing education opinion health leaving cert
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