Ireland Leaving Cert algorithm incorrectly grades students

Occurred: September 2020

An algorithm wrongly calculated the exam grades of over 14,000 Leaving Certificate exam takers in Ireland, resulting in psychological distress for the students and their families, and a political storm.

In 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic, Ireland’s Department of Education decided to replace students’ Leaving Certificate exams with an algorithmically generated score. As a result, over 6,000 students received lower grades than they should have, while approximately 8,000 students were awarded higher mark

The error was identified by Canadian company Polymetrica International, which found a mistake in a single line out of 50,000 lines of code, affecting the grades of around 7,200 students. Students whose grades were incorrectly inflated were threatened with but ulimately not denied admission to Ireland's third-tier universities

The incident highlighed the importance of rigorous testing and validation in higher-risk algorithmic systems.

Operator: Department of Education
Developer: Polymetrica International
Country: Ireland
Sector: Education
Purpose: Predict exam results
Technology: Prediction algorithm
Issue: Bias/discrimination - economic; Robustness
Transparency: Governance

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