Surge in uptake of higher-level LC maths

The minister charged with increasing student uptake and performance in maths and science has welcomed a surge in the numbers choosing higher-level Leaving Certificate maths.

Figures from the State Examinations Commission show an increase of more than a quarter in the proportion of students indicating at this stage they will take the tougher papers in the June exams.

Schools have reported to the SEC that just under one in four of almost 50,000 students entered for Leaving Certificate maths will choose higher level.

Although the figure normally drops as students opt for a different level on or before exam day, it compares with predicted figures of 19% to 20% in the approach to the exams in each of the last three years. The numbers who went on to sit higher-level maths papers when the exams came around fell to a record rate of below 16% last year.

The introduction of a scheme of bonus points for college entry through the CAO for students with higher-level maths appears to be the most likely reason for the jump. However, there is a possibility that bigger numbers than usual could drop down to ordinary level by the time students reach the exam hall in June.

Minister of State for Research and Innovation, Sean Sherlock, said the news is welcome and believes that bonus points for higher-level maths is a big factor.

“But it also tallies with the increase in demand for science, computer science and related college courses,” he said.

CAO figures this month showed that the numbers who chose a level 8 science degree as their first preference up to the Feb 1 preliminary application deadline was up 18.5% on last year, to 8,146.

“There’s much more awareness of the skills shortage in the technological sector, students are making informed decisions based on trends within the jobs market and this is really encouraging,” said Mr Sherlock.

The SEC data for this year’s Leaving Certificate show that 12,397 — almost 25% — of the 49,691 students entered for maths are predicted to take higher-level maths.

Just weeks before the exams last year, only 10,008 — or 19.6% — of expected maths sits were for higher level.

The bonus points system will mean that any students with a D3 or better in higher-level maths will get 25 CAO points more than for another subject. For example, an A1, normally worth 100 points, will earn a student 125 points and a D2, worth 50 points in other subjects, will be worth 75 points in higher-level maths.

The scheme is being introduced on a trial basis by most state-funded colleges in response to a request by previous education minister Mary Coughlan. It also follows pressure from employers and industry groups for initiatives to raise standards and ensure suitably qualified graduates for the science, engineering and technology sectors.


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