Girls: Easier ways to gain points than higher-level maths

The ability to gain college entry points in other subjects without the same time and effort is a big factor in girls avoiding higher-level Leaving Certificate maths, writes Niall Murray, Education Correspondent.

The finding comes from a survey of 2,400 girls aged 14 to 17 on issues affecting their subject and career choices, and particularly their interest or otherwise in science and related areas.

The organisers of IWish events, aimed at generating more interest among female students in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM), also asked attendees about reasons for opting out of higher-level maths.

While participation levels are increasing, it is one of the few Leaving Certificate subjects in which boys are more likely to take higher-level papers.

Even though colleges add 25 points to the Central Applications Office (CAO) scores of students with 30% or more in higher-level maths, 40% of girls at IWish events last year who did not take higher-level maths said there are easier ways to gain CAO points.

Nearly three-quarters of them felt it is too difficult, and 43% said it takes up too much time. Just over a third who responded to the survey and did not study maths at higher level said they would not need that level of competence in the subject for their career.

The result prompted organisers to call for how maths is taught at second-level to be revisited and for caution about negative messaging.

“Once again, these perceptions can be positively influenced by the teacher and the school environment,” they said.

A report on the survey findings, published ahead of 2018 IWish events next week, said female engineers, data analysts, and tech entrepreneurs tell them every year how they excelled in their careers despite being told at school to do ordinary-level maths.

This, the report said, clearly demonstrates that higher-level maths would most likely not have been too difficult for them.

With further responses showing a desire for more training for teachers about STEM careers and studies, even though half the 60 teachers surveyed taught science or maths themselves, the fully-booked IWish events in Cork and Dublin will aim to redress information gaps for teachers.

More than a quarter of them who attended last year’s events with female students said they do not know enough about the area, and nearly three-quarters believe extra teacher training about Stem careers would be beneficial.

The Teach It programme will offer teacher workshops, unconscious bias training, engagement for teachers with STEM industry experts, and briefings by Science Foundation Ireland.

The IWish organisers hope to add short internship-style training with industry partners in future, giving teachers a taste of work life in leading tech, engineering, and life sciences companies.


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