A bonus for mathematics students
Sir, – The decision to award extra points for honours maths amounts to educational apartheid. Once again the points system is putting the needs of certain interest groups above that of the individual.
If a student’s talent lies in the arts, literature or languages they are now a second class citizen. This unfair and untenable decision is forcing many students to place unnecessary emphasis on a subject that they may have little time or aptitude for. Furthermore it deflects them from the subject areas that they have the potential to really excel in. There is much wrong with the influence that the points race has on our education system. Rather than moving in the right direction towards encouraging creative and critical thinking in relation to the accumulation of knowledge, the powers-that-be seem hell bent on re-enforcing what Padraig Pearse described so aptly as “the murder machine”. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Michael Brennan’s letter (August 16th) shows how mathematics can be misinterpreted to make a point (ironic given the topic).
Tests such as the Leaving Certificate should not be measured against a “normal distribution” unless the examiners fit to a Gaussian curve, which based on a cursory glance at the data is clearly not the case (significantly more than 50 per cent of students score above the D1 grade, giving some truth to Garrison Keillor’s observation about Lake Wobegon that “all the children are above average”).
In reality the measure should be against international standards, since this is the job market in which this generation will compete. If we follow Mr Brennan’s logic, it should be impossible to raise the national scores in maths since we are measuring “normal human performance”. Singapore (a country with a population similar to Ireland’s) disproved this view when it raised its ranking in maths from 16th out of 26 nations to first in a period of 11 years. In the Pisa ranking in 2011, Singapore scored second after China, while Ireland came in 32nd. Singapore achieved this by setting ambitious goals and completely rethinking its curriculum and teaching methods. Each year Ireland competes with Singapore for high-tech jobs.
Unfortunately for Mr Brennan, someone forgot to tell the Singapore children that they had “inherent natural differences” that would limit their ability to excel at maths, as a result they appear to be well positioned to compete in the global jobs market. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Thelma Jones and Dr Orla Ní Bhroin (August 18th), both protest at the bonus for Leaving Certificate higher level mathematics. The former because she feels it “favours” those with an aptitude towards mathematics and the latter because she feels it punishes those whose strengths are in languages.
The bonus is designed to reverse a downward serious trend in applicants prepared to work on what was seen as a difficult subject. This trend was having a negative impact on skills that are essential for improving our country and our economy. In this regard the bonus appears to be working.
Perhaps your correspondents could comment on why there is still a bonus for taking the exams in Irish, a skill which is of little value to the country or the economy, other than the less than very small minority who speak it.
I suspect that most employers needing scientific or mathematic skills would find a candidate who knows the terms predominantly in Irish to be a hindrance rather than a benefit. Would it make it more difficult for for such a candidate to work abroad? Now what is the Gaeilge for calculus and trigonometry again? – Yours, etc,