STUDENTS applying for courses at the country’s biggest university will get bonus points if they have higher level Leaving Certificate maths from 2012.
However, University College Dublin (UCD) said it will be on a trial basis for four years, during which time research will be needed to find out if the move raises uptake and attainment of the subject at higher level.
Education Minister Mary Coughlan wrote to all third level colleges earlier this year, urging them to introduce a bonus points system to help encourage more students to sit the tougher exam. The proportion taking higher level maths has fallen to below one-in-six but a new second level curriculum and other initiatives aim to almost double that.
UCD’s plans were approved by its academic council yesterday. But deputy president Dr Philip Nolan said the move will only be successful if other measures to interest students in maths and ensure the best possible teaching are also taken. He said the university believes it is worth considering a two-part exam, one to test basic maths competency and secure an overall pass for third level entry and another to test advanced maths ability.
But dangers have also been identified by UCD, including bonus points leading to an increased uptake of higher level maths by students trying to get into high-points courses or students of schools in poorer areas not making higher level maths available to students, damaging their chances of availing of higher education.
The college is to decide the precise scheme for the awarding of bonus maths points in the coming weeks with other colleges which take similar moves. University of Limerick already offers bonus points for higher level maths but there are mixed views on other campuses, with academics at NUI Galway and University College Cork opposed to it, Trinity College Dublin in favour, and NUI Maynooth divided.
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