Overwhelming call by Irish engineers for investment in education curriculum

7 Aug 2013

Some 95pc of Irish engineers have called for more investment in the Irish education system, according to Engineers Ireland, because they believe Irish students are not doing well enough in maths and science compared to other OECD countries.

Some 60pc of engineers believe the new maths curriculum will benefit students’ overall problem-solving and analytical skills.

Similarly, 91pc thought maths should be given greater priority in the teaching curriculum. Some 62pc rated it as most important out of a list of nine subjects, ahead of science and English. Irish was rated second least important and religion least important.

The opinion on whether Project Maths is ‘dumbing down’ the subject was almost evenly split, with 33pc believing the new syllabus is easier compared to slightly more who disagreed, believing it is a means of engaging students to explore maths in everyday life.

A third of respondents were unsure. More than three-quarters (77pc) of those surveyed believe the increase in the number of students sitting the higher level Leaving Cert maths paper is due to the re-introduction of bonus points.

Educating employers

“We are very interested to hear the opinions of some of Ireland’s leading employers who are critical to our economy in terms of creating jobs,” said John Power, director general, Engineers Ireland. “The fact that a large number believe that Project Maths will benefit students is encouraging. However, the number of business leaders who are unsure or who believe that maths will now be easier means that there’s clearly some work to be done in educating employers on the benefits of the new curriculum.

“We support any improvements in maths education and we will share the findings of our survey with the Department of Education and Skills to see if Engineers Ireland can assist in any partnership process given our links with engineering employers in Ireland.

“Last year, we surveyed maths teachers and 77pc of those thought students would benefit if maths teaching in schools was combined with industrial visits to view real-life applications of maths. This year we asked business leaders a similar question and 94pc of them agreed that industry has a role to play in helping students understand how maths is used in the workplace.”

Doing the best with limited resources

Power acknowledge that the Irish Government has limited money to invest in education so industry must pull together to support teachers and help students engage with higher-level maths to produce the engineers and business leaders of tomorrow.

“Engineers Ireland runs free maths tutorials during the school year for students in Cork, Dublin and Galway, which allows Chartered Engineers to bring the curriculum to life using real-life instances of maths in the workplace. These lectures combined with our online maths tutorials have proven to be of real benefit to students,” Power added.

The Engineers Ireland STEPS team, a strategic partner of the national Discover Science and Engineering programme, has developed a range of support materials which are available on its website to assist maths teachers. This includes online video tutorials for junior and senior cycle, as well as worksheets. Engineers Ireland also runs a volunteer programme, whereby engineers visit schools to talk about their career as an engineer and the application of maths in everyday life, providing inspiration through real-life role models.

Engineers Ireland has worked with the National Centre for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching and Learning (NCE-MSTL) at the University of Limerick to develop teaching materials which support teachers in bringing real-life examples of maths into their lessons.  

Online registration for the Engineers Ireland maths tutorials in Cork, Dublin and Galway opens on Thursday, 22 August, at 9am on the STEPS website.

John Kennedy
By John Kennedy

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years. His interests include all things technological, music, movies, reading, history, gaming and losing the occasional game of poker.

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