There are mixed patterns in subject uptake and performance by students in the 2012 Leaving Cert.
Physics, once more popular than chemistry, has now been overtaken by agricultural science on the ranking of subjects by student numbers.
However, despite the increased interest in agriculture-related degrees — up to the first preference of more than 700 college applicants from fewer than 400 in 2008 — the agricultural science syllabus has not been fully revised for decades.
Within the science subjects — including biology, which is the most popular optional subject for students — there are still worrying grades at the lower end of the scale.
For example, one in six of the 1,381 ordinary-level chemistry students failed, and 600 or 9% of those who chose higher level chemistry got an E, F or No Grade (up from below 8% two years ago).
Of the 4,753 who took higher-level physics, 7.3% failed, while almost 11% of the 1,620 ordinary level candidates failed.
The results for the revised Leaving Cert Irish course also provide evidence of a improved standards, with the focus moved very much toward spoken Irish.
With the oral exam at Easter now worth 40% instead of the previous 25% of total marks, more than 37% of almost 43,000 Irish candidates attempted the higher-level exams. Those 15,937 students represent a significant jump from fewer than 33% in recent years, when an average 14,500 took the harder papers, while the numbers taking foundation-level Irish fell back to below 10%.
Construction studies has seen another fall in student interest but was still taken by more than 8,200, or almost 15%, of the Leaving Cert class of 2012, down from a little more than 9,000 candidates two years ago.
Teachers’ Union of Ireland president Gerard Craughwell said that with opportunities for apprenticeships dwindling, the employer-led system should be reviewed. Institutes of technology were best placed to deliver new ways of training apprentices, he said. “As citizens of this country, students who wish to pursue trades should not be denied this option,” he said.
Engineering was taken by 4,837 students, about 200 fewer than last year, a bigger fall proportionately than in the overall numbers taking the Leaving Cert. Technology remains a minority subject but the numbers who sat the exams this year passed the 900 mark, up from 838 a year ago.
There has been a minimal fall in numbers choosing engineering or technology degrees in their CAO applications, with 6,215 listing them as their first preferences this year.
The State Examinations Commission (SEC) reports another increase in students taking the range of EU non-curricular languages, accommodating many students who wish to take exams in their mother tongues. In figures that reflect the diversity being catered for in our schools, 1,370 students took exams in 15 of these languages, up from 1,262 last year.
By far the most popular was Polish, taken by 707 students, compared to 574 in 2011, followed by the 262 candidates for Leaving Cert Lithuanian. Among the other languages examined this year were Romanian (109 students), Latvian (87), Portuguese (63), and Slovakian (36), with fewer than 10 each sitting Estonian, modern Greek, Finnish, Danish, and Swedish.
The results in the non-curricular languages — all examined at higher level only — are very strong and the proportion getting A grades ranges from almost 11% for Lithuanian to more than 25% of the 33 students who took the Hungarian examination.
Monday, Aug 20:
CAO Round 1 offers available online from 6am
Closing date for receipt of completed application forms in school to view marked scripts for possible appeal.
From midday, CAO’s Available Places system opens for applications.
Aug 27, 5.15pm:
Deadline to accept Round 1 CAO offers.
CAO Round 2 offers, available online from 6am.
Aug 31 and Sept 1:
Candidates may viewing Leaving Certificate scripts in schools (by prior arrangement).
Sept 5, 5pm:
All Leaving Certificate appeal applications must be with the State Examinations Commission.
5.15pm: Deadline to accept round two offers.
After round two, the Available Places facility operates on a weekly schedule of applications, offers, and acceptances.
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