Leaving Cert maths numbers don’t add up

15 Aug 2007

Leading employers body IBEC has expressed concern at the decline in the number of Leaving Certificate students taking up higher level maths and science subjects. Its ICT Ireland division has proposed the re-introduction bonus points scheme to encourage take-up.

“The results from Leaving Certificate 2007 give cause for serious concern,” warned IBEC’s head of education and social policy Tony Donohoe who said that the development of a knowledge economy depends on a strong supply of scientists, engineers and technologists.

“Out of a cohort of 53,926 students, just 15.6pc sat the higher level mathematics paper and 12.5pc secured a honours grade – this contrasts with 44pc achieving a similar grade in English.

“Since a C1 grade in higher level mathematics is a prerequisite for most engineering and some hi-tech courses, it is clear the Leaving Certificate results automatically exclude the vast majority of students from pursuing these careers,” Donohoe warned.

Looking at science subjects, only 7pc, 8pc and 23pc of Leaving Cert students secured an honour in higher level physics, chemistry and biology respectively.

Despite the small number of Leaving Certificate students opting for higher level maths, four out of five of students achieved an honour.

IBEC affiliate ICT Ireland, which represents the interests of the substantial technology industry in Ireland, said that more needs to be done to encourage greater numbers of students to take up higher level maths and science subjects.

It proposed the re-introduction of bonus points for higher level maths to encourage take-up.

“A strong grounding in mathematics is an essential life skill”, said ICT Ireland director Kathryn Raleigh.

“The phrase ‘knowledge economy’ is based on the fact that our knowledge is now the most important asset in the Irish economy. Maths and science are more important than ever for students’ future success,” she added.

“Mathematics is a challenging subject, but students opting for higher level are frequently rewarded with excellent grades and opportunities for success in the knowledge society. We should be encouraging students to put in the effort by awarding them bonus points in higher level maths for relevant third level courses,” said Raleigh.

IBEC’s Tony Donohoe pointed out that the Government has given significant commitment through the National Development Plan to support science, engineering, ICT and R&D.

He said that this will be seriously undermined if it does not address the requirement to have a strong foundation in maths and science in secondary level.

He said the post-primary maths curricula is currently under review and added that yesterday’s results indicate this review should be afforded the highest priority.

By John Kennedy