FG wants shared college laboratories and free laptops for students

SUMMER access to college science facilities and lab technicians shared between schools are among Fine Gael’s proposals to encourage more young people to study science subjects.

The party’s education spokesperson Brian Hayes also outlined a policy to give every second level student a laptop computer to increase education in technology.

He said greater efforts must be made to reverse the drop in numbers of students taking higher level Leaving Certificate maths, and to improve the low participation in physics and chemistry.

The first proposal is a Summer Lab Fund to allow third level colleges provide summer programmes in science, technology and engineering, which Mr Hayes said was practical and affordable.

“Students participating in the programmes would have the opportunity to carry out experiments and procedures using modern equipment under expert tuition and supervision. Second level students need access to modern laboratories and advanced technologies and need to engage directly withpracticing scientists,” he said.

“Ireland needs high levels of achievement in science and technology to compete internationally and a change in how we teach, resource and deal with these courses is needed to realise this,” said Mr Hayes, as he attended the BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition.

Fine Gael is also proposing that schools in the same area form clusters which would receive extra resources, such as laboratory technician hours, allowing students whose schools have no up-to-date facilities avail of science programmes without delay.

Mr Hayes estimated the cost of giving all 334,000 second level students a laptop at around €23 million.

This, he said, was a small proportion of the €252m set aside for Information and Communications Technology (ICT) in schools under the National Development Plan.

“The points for science courses are plummeting and in UCD, for example, science was 305 points last year compared to 465 for primary teaching and over 400 for most business courses,” Mr Hayes said. “This is because of a drop in demand, but these proposals will go some way to reversing this trend.”

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