Monthly Archives: May 2011

Eurovision fest time

I’ve been watching Eurovision for approx.30 years (giving away my age here), and yes it has changed over the years.  If it hadn’t moved with the times, would we all stop watching it – yes, that includes you too.

Eurovision is one of those strange phenomena that some of us in this country (and the UK also) like to be rather snooty and superiour towards.  Why? Are we bad losers and rubbish a competition unless we perform well in it?   Is our range of musical tastes so narrow we can’t appreciate something different?  Do we have issues with Eastern Europe?  Do we…………..?  Can we not just get over ourselves and enjoy the Eurovision?

Eurovision has become more than just a song contest.  In my view, there are three aspects required for a successful entry – the song, the singer, and the performance presentation on the night.  All three have to be working well for an entry to do well.  When we insulted Europe and ourselves by sending Dustin the Turkey we scored zero points on all three.  If we send rubbish why are we expecting gold?  Watching the national finals this year, our entrant had a reasonable song, poor-ish singers but singers who could be relied on to present a good showing on the stage.  What happened in the Dusseldorf semis on Thursday night – Jedward pulled off a surprisingly good job on the singing (good on them, I felt rather proud of them), and their stage presentation was excellent (kudos to the designer of the electronic backdrop, by the way).  The odds on Ireland shortened considerably.

A thing that I love about the Eurovision is the variety of genres on show.  A winner needs to be the best representation of its genre in each of the three aspects above.  Whether a given viewer likes a particular genre or not is irrelevant given the sheer size of the audience numbers watching. There is an audience for just about everything.  Take Lordi (representing Finland a short number of years back) – they, their song and their stage presentation were excellent in the hard rock genre.  To the non-hard rock brigade anything in this category sounds like pre-historic monsters growing at each other. Does this matter?  No.  There were enough supporters of this category to appreciate what Lordi had to offer.  With only minor exceptions, this has been a consistent feature of Eurovision over the years.  The best song, singer, performance representative of a particular genre comes out on top.

This year, the French have sent a song and singer in the classical-pop cross-over genre.  Anyone, having a gander through my ipod is in no doubt as to where my taste in music is. has been played several times on this laptop.  In my mind, the French entry is head and shoulders over everything else I have heard.  Admittedly, I haven’t seen the entrants from the first semi. Nor have a I heard the Italian, German or Spanish entries. I have no idea how the French will present on the stage tonight.   Nonetheless, from what I have heard, my top 5 are: France, Ireland, Austria, UK, Sweden.

Now, whose commentary do I listen to – Mary Whelan or Graham Norton?  Decisions Decisions!


How many points did you get in your Leaving Cert?

No, I can’t remember mine either.  Granted, the points systems worked on a different grading system back then, and while there was a “points race” it was nothing like it is now.  Somehow, over the years what should be a fair, objective and all-equal HE entry mechanism of separating the academically deserving from the not-so-deserving seems to have veered off course.

Now, our new Minister for Education wants rid of the points system.

No-one will question the decision.  However, the obvious question is what he will replace it with.  Here’s where our crafty Minister shows his power of delegation.  Instead of getting the thinking-caps of the department of education onto the job, he’s put the task to the university heads to sit down together and trash out an alternative. And they have until September to come up with a solution – a tall order indeed?  The solution even has to be solid, that’s nothing “wishy washy” now.  The solution has to be realistic, solid, workable with all strands working together.

The plus side is that the universities have been given power on a plate to design, develop and implement a system they would like.  The problem is what it might possibly look like.

  • Should it have formal end-of-year exams?
  • Should it have more continuous-assessment (CA) through-out the year?
  • Who sets, approves and grades this CA?
  • There is a call for more thinking and analytical skills. What is the best way to teach and assess this?
  • Should Leaving Cert students have more of a say in their assessment and curriculum?
  • Should Irish remain a compulsory subject?
  • Is the concept of splitting content into “subjects” old-fashioned?
  • How might extra-curricular activities be incorporated into the mix?
  • How might the role of the teacher change with a new system?
  • What impact might there be on physical (or other) resources (individual recyclable science kits anyone?) and who will fund them

I am curious as to the university heads come up with, and how they will implement it. Exciting times are ahead.