Maths numbers need to add up for Ireland’s Smart Economy

25 Sep 2009

Despite spending pressures, the Government must continue to prioritise the teaching of maths and the physical sciences in secondary schools, according to the director general of Engineers Ireland, John Power.

Speaking in the wake of the ASTI survey that indicated many secondary-level schools have been forced to drop science subjects and reduce the availability of higher-level maths, Power called for the Government to heed what it heard at Farmleigh last weekend, that engineering and creativity are the keys to Ireland’s future.

“The initial ASTI findings are extremely worrying,” Power said.

“Subjects that are fundamental to the Smart Economy Framework such as physics, chemistry and maths are claimed by the ASTI as casualties of school cutbacks. The Government needs to ensure that its cuts are strategic and not impacting on areas around maths and science subjects.

“Maths and the physical sciences are key elements of the engineering syllabus at third level as well as being key pillars of the Smart Economy. Engineers Ireland has already highlighted the direct link between the decreasing numbers studying these subjects and the shortage of engineers entering Irish industry.

“Engineers Ireland fully acknowledges the need for cuts in public-sector spending in a difficult economic climate but undermining maths and science subjects that underpin the Smart Economy Framework seems short-sighted and counter-productive,” Power said.

The ASTI findings suggest some 25pc of schools in one Galway region have dropped science from the curriculum. In east Mayo, 20pc of schools have also dropped science subjects, according to the survey.

A major report by DKM Economic Consultants earlier this year found that engineers directly contribute €5.5bn to the Irish economy and are particularly prominent in high-tech sectors that account for almost 80pc of merchandise exports.

By John Kennedy

Photo: Engineers Ireland has highlighted the link between the decreasing number of students studying maths and physical sciences to the shortage of engineers entering Irish industry.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years