LEAVING Certificate students who barely pass higher level maths will get the same points for college entry as someone who previously got a C1 grade under a bonus points system agreed by the seven universities.
The controversial system, sought by Education Minister Mary Coughlan earlier this year, will offer 25 points for each grade more than those currently available for any higher level subject.
It will mean a student with an A1 in the exam will get 125 points (up from 100), falling to a minimum 70 points for any candidate with a D3 in higher level.
The scheme also means anybody who passes higher level maths will get 10 points more than they would if they get an A1 in ordinary level maths.
“While the bonus still rewards high attainers, it is particularly attractive to those students who are capable of strong results at ordinary level but who are concerned about the extra demands of the honours course,” said Irish Universities Association chief executive Ned Costello.
The trial bonus points system comes against a background of strong reservations among academics in some of the six universities introducing them on a four-year trial basis from 2012, with a review to take place in 2014.
University of Limerick’s academic council is to be asked to amend its existing bonus points for maths to match the scheme now planned by the other universities.
While the initiative is aimed at improving the uptake of higher level maths from less than one-in-six Leaving Certificate students, the universities’ association said it must be backed by curriculum reform in schools and improved teacher competence.
The founder of Maths Week, which is running in schools, colleges, libraries and other centres, said the most important way to get pupils more interested and better at maths is to make it fun and change attitudes.
“There’s a lot of talk about bonus points getting more students doing honours in the Leaving Certificate, but it’s not a panacea, it’s only a bandage on a big wound and may just lead to students doing higher level maths for the sake of getting higher points,” said Dr Eoin Gill from the Centre for the Advancement of Learning of Maths, Science and Technology at Waterford Institute of Technology.
He said the Project Maths syllabus in second-level schools is a step in the right direction towards making maths more practical but it could take years for teaching methods to change.
Dozens of free events are taking place as part of Maths Week, which is in its fifth year and had almost 74,000 students signed up to attend events or organise their own activities.
* Info: www.mathsweek.ie
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