Dramatic fall in number failing maths in Leaving Certificate
IN A reversal of recent trends, the number failing maths in the Leaving Certificate has fallen dramatically, while record numbers opted to take the subject at higher level.
While the number failing maths this year is still relatively high at close to 4,000, this is down by 20 per cent on recent years.
Last night, Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn welcomed the record number of students who took higher level maths in the exam – 22 per per cent of all maths students took the higher paper, compared to 16 per cent last year. Remarkably, only 256 students of the 11,000-plus who took higher maths failed the paper.
This year, students were examined for the first time on some elements of the new Project Maths course, which has been criticised over “dumbing down’’ by some teachers.
Last night, some critics alleged examiners were “pressurised’’ to deliver better grades in maths. But the State Exams Commission strongly rejected these claims, issuing a lengthy statement detailing the marking process.
In the Dáil last month, Fine Gael TD Mary Mitchell O’Connor said she had “been informed by a corrector of the Leaving Certificate honours mathematics paper that in one of the 75-mark questions . . . the marking system has been changed drastically because the results are so dismal’’.
Exam results published this morning also show a marked increase in the numbers taking Irish at higher level. The other striking feature is the fall-off in the number of exam candidates from grind schools, down over 20 per cent.
The sharp increase in numbers taking higher level maths comes after colleges agreed to Mr Quinn’s request to offer bonus CAO points for those taking the paper. This year, the 10,875 students with a grade D3 or better in higher level maths will secure a bonus 25 CAO points. This means they will enjoy a considerable advantage over the 35,000 students who took the ordinary level paper.
The CAO will publish its first round of college offers next Monday. Over 32,000 places are available in Level 8 or higher degree courses.
It is expected the bonus points system will lead to a significant increase in points, especially for high-demand courses in such areas as science, technology and agriculture.
Career experts say the scattergun impact of the bonus points system could also see increased points even for areas such as arts and business.
The 11 per cent increase in the number taking higher level Irish is being linked to the new marking scheme that awards 40 per cent to the oral exam. Overall, the number taking higher level Irish increased by almost 5 per cent to 37 per cent.
Other main features of the results include:
Three students secured nine A1 grades, while 10 gained eight A1s. In all, 150 students scored a “perfect’’ Leaving with six A1s or better;
Failure rates remained high in several ordinary level subjects, including chemistry (16.6 per cent), biology (13.5 per cent) and physics (10.6 per cent);
Failure rates were also high in several language subjects at ordinary level, including Italian (10.3 per cent), French (6.9 per cent) and Spanish (7.2 per cent);
Among the main subjects, music is the “easiest’’ honour at higher level. Over 95 per cent of students secured an A, B or C;
Biology and business are the “hardest” honours, with an A, B or C rate of 71 per cent.
Peter O’Neill, president of the American Chamber of Commerce Ireland, which represents more than 600 US companies in Ireland, praised the bonus points system.
“Students who traditionally would have studied ordinary level maths seeking an ‘A’ grade have pushed themselves into the higher level stream and achieved honours at the higher level. This is a welcome development,” he said.