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Sunday, November 16, 2008

Environmental and Social Studies

Environmental and Social Studies is a subject area in the Junior Certificate examination, an Irish secondary school test. Introduced with the "new" Junior Certificate examination, ESS is an integrated subject comprising history, geography, and elements of civics, town planning, cartography and many other subjects. It is probably the most naturally cross-curricular subject in Irish schools.

It is a skills-based and student-centred course, allowing the teacher a great deal of freedom in the topics covered and methodology used. There is no textbook and students learn by active and experiential learning.

It can be taken at Higher or Ordinary Level, with differences in the syllabus requirements depending on the level selected. The standard of projects submitted for each level is also different. Each candidate must submit two major projects for assessment. One (Field Study/Geography) must be done as part of a group, and groupwork skills will be rewarded, and the other (Research Project/History/Social Studies) must be undertaken individually, and is marked differently.

The projects can be assessed by the class teacher, another teacher in the school or by the visiting moderator. All projects are moderated externally, whether scored "in-house" or not. This ensures a national standard and does away with any allegations of favouritism or otherwise.

The examination consists of source-driven questions, and is a two-hour exam taken in June, at the same time as the Junior Certificate Geography exam. ESS fulfils the History/Geography requirement at Junior Certificate level for the Department of Education and Science.

The ESS syllabus is available online and is part of the group of Junior Certificate syllabi currently undergoing review by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment.

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