Concern over poor maths results in Leaving Cert

 

Almost 57,000 mainly young people have received their Leaving Certificate results today. The results show that more than 5,000 students have failed ordinary and foundation-level maths making many ineligible for third-level courses, as maths is a basic requirement in subjects such as science and engineering.

The results overall highlight the shallow pool of high achievers in maths. While over 55,000 sat the Leaving Cert, only 6,600 gained an "honour" (Grade C3 or better) in higher-level maths meaning that tens of thousands of students will be disqualified from enrolling on third-level courses in courses which are seen to be essential to a knowledge economy.

In all, only 17 per cent of Leaving Cert students opted for the higher-level paper in maths. At ordinary level, failure rates were also high in chemistry (14 per cent) and physics (8 per cent). Over 1,400 students also failed the higher-level biology paper.

Last night, business figures urged swift action to tackle a "crisis in maths and science". Employers' body Ibec said disappointing Leaving Cert results this year would undermine the capacity of Irish firms to innovate and the ambitions of the Government's Strategy for Science, Technology and Innovation.

ICT Ireland, an organisation which represents the technology sector, today expressed concern with the low numbers choosing to sit the higher-level maths paper and called for the re-introduction of bonus points to encourage more students to choose the course.

“While there was a marginal increase in the numbers of students that sat the higher paper in maths this year, when you take into account the fact that more students sat the leaving certificate this year compared with last year, the numbers are disappointing," said Kathryn Raleigh, director of ICT Ireland.

“For the past number of years the high failure rate in maths and the small numbers choosing to take higher level has made the headlines. It is time to stop posturing and tackle the problem head on. Radical solutions must be introduced immediately,” she added.

The Irish Medical Devices Association (IMDA), which represents the medical technology sector, also expressed disappointment with the results.

“Between 1999 and 2007 the Irish medical devices workforce grew from 16,000 to over 24,000, representing nearly 10 per cent of Ireland’s total manufacturing workforce. This employment is sustained by the availability of highly skilled and educated workforce, and is particularly reliant on skills in science and engineering subjects,” said IMDA chief executive Dr Eoghan O Faoláin.

Fine Gael said this morning that Ireland's future economic development was being put at risk by the low level of uptake in maths and science courses.

"Ireland needs high levels of achievement in science and technology and, to realise this, a sea change in how we teach, how we resource and how we deal with these courses is needed. Fianna Fáil has failed to meet the challenges posed by falling participation rates and achievement in maths and the sciences," said Fine Gael's education and science spokesman, Brian Hayes

On a more positive note, today's results show very strong performances in languages and music. Nine of the subjects with the highest honours rates are languages. There were also impressive results in higher-level applied maths, where 27 per cent scored an A grade and in chemistry, where 24 per cent got an A.

Minister for Education Batt O'Keeffe last night urged students who had performed well in maths and science to think carefully about choosing courses in the science, engineering and technology sectors.

The chair of Ógra Fianna Fáil and one of the youngest TDs in Dáil Eireann, Dara Calleary, advised students not to get too hung up on results saying there was "more to life" than the Leaving Certificate.

"There is no doubt that it is a milestone exam and that it marks an important turning point in the life of every student," he said.

"However, I want to urge them to remember that there is more to life than the Leaving Certificate. The result they received today will not dictate the path their lives take."

"It is easy and very understandable to be disappointed if the desired results are not achieved, but there is more than one path to any career choice and there have never been more options available for third level education and training opportunities," he added.

President Mary McAleese today congratulated students on their results

"Today represents the culmination of many months of hard work and commitment for thousands of young people throughout the country. May you all receive the success you so richly deserve as you progress to the next exciting chapter of your lives," she said.

Students intent on hitting the town to celebrate their results tonight have been urged to take care. Drinkaware.ie, an initiative set up by the drinks industry-sponsored group Meas (Mature Enjoyment of Alcohol in Society), has issued guidelines to ensure that students stay safe.

The organisation is urging students to eat before they go out, carry an ID card, look out for their friends and plan ahead how they will get home safely.

The Road Safety Authority has appealed for all involved to prevent celebrations turning to tragedy.

The authority has called on parents of teenagers in particular to enter a "safe-driving agreement" with their children.

The Dublin Rape Crisis Centre has also issued a warning, saying it had seen an increase in the number of young men and women sexually assaulted while celebrating exam results. It said people could contact the Rape Crisis Centre 24- hour helpline at 1 800 77 88 88 for support.

Students have also been advised that help is at hand for students who are unhappy with their Leaving Cert results.

The Samaritans said that its helpline - 1850 60 90 90 - was open to anyone who wished to contact it looking for support.