Failure rate in science subjects remains high

Nearly one student in five fails chemistry at ordinary level, 8.1% at higher level

There are growing indications that the science crisis at second level may be linked to failures in teaching the subject at primary school

There are growing indications that the science crisis at second level may be linked to failures in teaching the subject at primary school

Wed, Aug 14, 2013, 09:20

Rising demand for places on college science courses looks set to slow down slightly this year, with the number of applications staying steady. However, despite the increasing popularity of science at third level, today’s Leaving Cert results show a stubbornly high failure rate across all science disciplines at second level.

Biology has a failure rate of 8 per cent at higher level and 13.4 per cent at ordinary level. Physics has a 7.2 per cent failure rate at higher level and 9.3 per cent fail rate at ordinary level, while 8.1 per cent of higher-level chemistry students and 18.2 per cent of ordinary-level students fail.

Meanwhile, biology is one of the most difficult subjects for students to achieve an honour in, with just 69.6 per cent getting an A, B, or C grade.

Of the three main science subjects – physics, chemistry and biology – only biology attracts significant numbers, with 31,500 students sitting the exam this year. Physics is particularly unpopular among girls, with just 1,586 taking the subject compared with 5,091 boys. Chemistry is slightly more attractive, with 8,155 Leaving Cert sits.

There are growing indications that the science crisis at second level may be linked to failures in teaching the subject at primary school. A major report last month highlighted concerns over the amount of time spent teaching science at primary level, and showed Irish children are getting less instruction than children in almost all other countries.

Overall the Leaving Cert results issued this morning by the State Examinations Commission offered few surprises, with students performing well overall. While failure rates in some areas were of concern, particularly in science, most others were in keeping with previous years.

The apparently toughest subject, physics/chemistry, had the highest failure rate this year, 11.2 per cent at higher level, although only 330 students sat the exam. The second-most often failed subject was classical studies at 10.6 per cent, again with a small number sitting the exam, 542.

Music was the least difficult subject for achieving pass or honours marks. Of the 5,713 students who sat it, 14.1 per cent got A1s, a huge 94.8 per cent got honours and 4.9 per cent got pass grades. The failure rate was just 0.3 per cent.

Geography remains one of the most popular subjects, with 19,762 students taking it. Here 8.7 per cent got an A, 75.3 per cent won honours and 21.9 per cent passed, with a low 2.8 per cent failure rate.

Students also performed well in the mainstream languages with strong performances in French (14,188 sitting), German (4,325 sitting) and Spanish (2,961 sitting).