By Róise McCann
The attempted use of a biased algorithm to predict a-Level grades in the UK in the absence of exams was met with protest and resistance by young people across these islands. The use of a similar algorithm as was used in England, Wales and Scotland exposed the insidious ‘postcode lottery’ which exists in those regions.
Students win victories
Across the board the predicted grades of middle class and working class pupils were systematically downgraded, whilst elitist private institutions like Eton saw record high grades. Students took to the streets, including in a protest in Belfast organised by Socialist Party members, identifying the Tory algorithm as inherently anti-working class. With the mounting political pressure from below, each government u-turned and released grades as predicted by teachers. This was a victory for students. At the beginning of the lockdown measures in the South, students protested the pushing ahead of the Leaving Cert exams in the face of a pandemic. Pushing ahead with the exams disregarded working-class students’ lack of accessible facilities and the major impact the exams would have on students’ mental health. Socialist Party members played a key role in the opposition of the Leaving Cert going ahead with Mick Barry representing young people’s opposition in the Dail. With mounting pressure from students, the government backed down and Leaving Cert exams were cancelled.
Class inequality exposed
The A-Level and Leaving Cert protests highlight the inherent inequality that exists in education. For a just education system, we must fight for a break from profit driven capitalist motives in education and academic selection. Instead we need a fully funded, secular and all-inclusive education system from nursery to third level funded by taking the wealth from the billionaires. The futures of young people should no longer be fettered by institutional class bias.