There was a 35pc surge in the number of students taking higher-level maths in Ireland’s Leaving Cert this year, resulting in many of them receiving 25 extra CAO bonus points. Today, close to 60,000 anxious students will receive their results and many will hopefully be rewarded for their hard work.
It is understood that of the 11,000 candidates that tackled higher-level maths this year, some 97.7pc achieved a grade D or higher, entitling them to the bonus points.
The surge was welcomed by the IBEC-based lobby groups Irish Software Association and ICT Ireland, which have been calling for greater focus on maths performance in Irish schools.
Currently there are as many as 5,000 job vacancies in the local ICT sector.
Improved academic performance along with students opting for computer science and other science-related courses at third level are considered globally as key economic imperatives.
Since January, 4,300 jobs have been announced in Irish tech sector
“The increase in the numbers taking higher-level maths is very positive,” ICT Ireland and ISA director Paul Sweetman said.
“Higher-level maths is a key building block for a successful career in many sectors of the economy, particularly in high-tech industries. ICT Ireland campaigned for many years for the reintroduction of maths bonus points and today’s figures show the direct impact it has had on the numbers taking the subject.
“Coupled with the significant increase in CAO applications for science, technology and engineering-related courses, the increase in students taking higher-level maths papers sends a strong signal to the global technology community that Ireland will remain a key location for growth and investment.
“There remains enormous demand for quality science, engineering and computer graduates. Companies in the sector are expanding and recruiting. Since January, more than 4,300 jobs have been announced in the technology sector,” Sweetman said.
A kaleidoscope of career opportunities
Leaving certificate students who hope to pursue a career in IT were reminded that there are a range of different avenues into a computing career. Irish Computer Society president Fintan Swanton explained: “All the indications are that demand for third-level IT courses has risen. It is understandable that young people would want to be involved in such a thriving and exciting field.
“Unfortunately this means that there will be some students who will not get into their preferred course. I encourage these students not to be disheartened but to persevere with IT by exploring the many different ways to begin a career in computing.
He continued: “I am well aware of the many different career paths into the profession. The fact is that in Ireland and across Europe, 50pc of IT professionals do not hold a formal computing degree, which illustrates that there are many options in Ireland to pursue a successful career in the industry.
“Students who are not in a position to complete a degree have a wide variety of options. Part-time courses such as EUCIP are specifically designed for individuals looking to break into the industry. EUCIP is accepted by DCU for admission onto their post-graduate diploma in IT,” Swanson added.
Engineers are the rock stars of the tech industry
It is a known fact across the IT industry – and particularly at organisations like Intel, Google, Facebook, Microsoft and Apple – that engineers are the rock stars responsible for making many of the innovations that wow us today happen.
The head of Engineers Ireland John Power said that attempts by industry and Government to encourage students into careers in engineering science and technology are paying dividends as students themselves recognise opportunities for careers in emerging industries.
“The likely increase in CAO points in many areas of engineering, science and technology this year shows that students are now recognising the benefits of a career in these areas. The bonus points now on offer are also a factor.
“However, maths competence is the bedrock upon which qualifications in these sectors are based. Our survey last week of members of the Irish Maths Teachers Association (IMTA) indicated that that more than three-quarters of maths teachers believe that industry has a vital role to play in explaining the real-life applications of maths. So it is now imperative we build on the growing interest in certain engineering disciplines and the sciences to do all that we can to ensure students have the requisite maths skills to meet this demand for graduates in expanding areas of our economy,” said Power.
Engineers Ireland is extending its free maths tutorials in Dublin to centres in Cork and Galway from 29 September. Students interested in registering for the free maths tutorials in Cork, Dublin and Galway should visit Steps.ie.
A chemical reaction
ICT Ireland’s sister lobby group PharmaChemical Ireland also welcomed the surge in maths performance but expressed grave concerns that this increase is not reflected in the numbers of students taking chemistry and physics at second level, where numbers have remained static.
PharmaChemical Ireland director Matt Moran said: "Given Ireland’s industrial profile, it is a matter of serious concern that neither chemistry or physics are amongst the top 10 leaving certificate subject choices. Chemistry and physics are still perceived as difficult subjects and students tend to avoid choosing them in the hope of obtaining more points in other subjects.
"The 2012 results emphasise the need for resources to be put in place in the teaching of the physical science at second level. It is important that schools recognise that science is a gateway to a wide range of fulfilling careers. Not only is it a passport into one of the country’s most valuable and successful industries, it is also a launch pad for a whole variety of other careers ranging from medicine, engineering and forensic science, right the way through to financial analysis.
"The pharmaceutical and biopharma industry accounts for more than 50pc of total Irish exports and employs more than 50,000 directly and indirectly, 50pc of these hold a third-level qualification. Eight of the top 10 pharmaceuticals companies in the world have major operations in Ireland, benefiting from a favourable tax regime, a highly-skilled workforce, strong compliance record and easy access to European markets,” Moran said.