IT was never a walk in the park, but at 38 pages, the Higher Leaving Certificate Paper of Economics may be too “long” and possibly “heavy” for some students.
Filled with 16 challenging questions on issues such as demography, the European Central Bank (ECB), the black economy and solar panels, the paper was timely and certainly appeared to give students the possibility to think financially in real-world scenarios.
However, with a lengthy paper and some lengthy, taxing questions, it can be a big challenge for some.
Keith Hannigan, teacher of economics at the Institute of Education told Meczyki: “Coming in at 38 pages, the paper was too long and could be overwhelming for some students.”
However, he added: “Although very varied, there were at least five nice little questions that would suit the students and the choice here would have really helped them as well.”
The paper “continues” with a new style of not showing the marks awarded for questions, Mr Hannigan said.
He felt that the new parts of the curriculum were well represented “including market failures”, which were made up of short questions. The question on stability was a long question.
“The format of long questions meant that many topics from the syllabus were combined into a few questions,” he said.
“For this reason it was important that the student read to the end just before starting the questions.”
In general, Mr. Hannigan felt that most students would have found three long questions that they would be happy with.
In Part A of the paper, students were required to answer five out of ten questions. In previous years, before changes could be made, they had to give eight out of eight answers.
Mr Hannigan felt that the first question in this section was “pretty” and required only “simple calculations”.
Another question focused on the minimum unit pricing of alcohol. He said it was a “current topic” and “it was good to get students’ opinion on the issue”.
Demographics, and the fact that there will be more than 65 people living in Ireland by 2031, framed another question within section A. The students were asked to see its effect. Again, this was felt as a “current and current” question, he said.
Students were asked in this section about interest rates – which are affecting their families – and then to focus on the actions of the ECB. Mr Hannigan felt this was a “good and straightforward question that required textbook knowledge”.
Interestingly, Question 8 in this section examined the black economy and the fact that Ireland has supply-chain issues for illegal fireworks.
“Again, it was nice and timely, and if students kept in touch with general news, they would have gained insight here,” he said. Solar panels and their benefits and costs were also examined.
In section B, students were faced with extended response questions.
Like last year, students had to answer three out of six questions. Normally they had to answer four out of five.
The first part of Question 11 was quite focused on the standard and factor of production land.
It then passed on the benefits of the government supporting regional development, such as financing regional airline services.
Question 12 was on the market structure focused on monopoly and oligopoly. It also looked into planning permission for electric cars and data centers.
Question 13 was, Mr Hannigan felt, “more concise” and focused on something every student should know – taxation.
The last section of the question was “nice and timely”. It asked students’ opinion whether a new tax should affect all firms, or just large firms.
Question 15 examined how quotas and subsidies affect the milk supply chain and how Brexit has affected trade between Ireland and the UK. While most of the question was on trade, the last part turned its focus to fiscal policy. This is a separate part of the curriculum, which some students may find more challenging, Mr Hannigan said. Mairead O’Sullivan is an economics teacher at Glenstall Abbey School in Limerick, and economics representative for the Business Studies Teachers Association of Ireland (BSTAI). , said: “It was a very challenging but fair paper which was very timely throughout.
“Students must have in-depth knowledge of the entire specification attempting this paper as all the questions have a mix of topics. With extra choices on the paper, there was no possibility of paper cutting, which may happen in other subjects this year. “
Ms O’Sullivan said section A provided enough options for most students to complete five of the 10 questions provided. Section B, however, found it more “challenging and it was really important that the student read the questions carefully before making their choice.”
Time was, Ms O’Sullivan said, “an issue but because of the shorter paper this year, the students had enough time to do everything.”
“One of my students told me after the exam that it was pretty tough to complete,” she said. He said the student felt it would be “nearly impossible” to answer six short questions and four long questions at the same time next year.
The student felt that the examination needed to be extended to three hours. Ms. O’Sullivan said: “I have to agree with that. Students reported that they found the paper lengthy and were writing until the last minute.