Leaving Cert: Increase in uptake of science, technology subjects welcomed

Students urged to keep ‘a sense of perspective’ and explore options outside of third level

The increased uptake in students taking higher level STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) subjects has been welcomed by educationalists and industry bodies.

The National Association of Principals and Deputy Principals (NAPD) said the promotion of science subjects in education was merited given the future job opportunities.

However, it also pointed to the increased number of students taking modern European languages, as well as higher level Irish, as positive signs.

NAPD director Clive Byrne said "the combined efforts of Government policy and effective teaching have had tangible effects on the uptake of both STEM and foreign language learning".


Mr Byrne stressed “a sense of perspective is important”. While a good Leaving Cert was a valuable qualification, CAO results did not dictate the future, he said. “Over the coming weeks, principals, deputy principals, teachers and counsellors will be on hand across the country to advise and support students looking at alternatives, or different paths, to college.”

Echoing this point, the Joint Managerial Body, which represents the management of about two thirds of secretary schools, said there was "a role in life for each and every young person who received results today".

General secretary Ferdia Kelly said: “All pupils should be encouraged at this time to realise that each individual is unique and this uniqueness is best described in the variety of gifts, skills and personality types that we possess as human beings.”

Education and Training Boards Ireland (ETBI), which represents colleges in further and adult education, used students not to be fixated on higher education and to explore other options, include apprenticeships.

General secretary Michael Moriarty said: “Across Europe, further education and training, rather than third-level education, is seen more and more as the engine for human progress in the 21st century.”

He said: 'Trying to picking the winning career at 18 is a dangerous game, since even the experts can't predict with any certainty what the future will be like. Indeed, as the futurist Thomas Frey argues, 60 per cent of the jobs ten years from now haven't been invented yet."

Ibec, the group representing Irish business, welcomed the fact that the added interest in maths and science was translating into increased demand for third level science and technology courses.

“In the last five years, first preference applications have increased by 18 per cent for honours engineering/technology degrees and by 28 per cent for honours science degrees,” said Tony Donohoe, head of education policy.

“However, there is no room for complacency. Over 40 per cent of respondents to a recent employer survey anticipate a shortage of skills in the next five years in engineering, ICT, specific quantitative skills and languages.”

Teacher unions also extended their best wishes to the Class of 2015.

Ahead of planned reforms of the Junior Cycle curriculum, ASTI President Máire Ní Chiarba said: "A key strength of the Irish State exams system is that it is transparent, objective, impartial and fair. This is fundamental to the high level of trust parents and students have in the Irish education system."

TUI president Gerry Quinn said: "Students should be congratulated on their achievements today. At a time when the education system has been damaged by cutbacks, they have shown fortitude and determination in securing their results."

The drop in the number of candidates taking the Leaving Certificate Applied and Vocational programmes should be further investigated, Mr Quinn added.

“We believe that cuts to capitation grants and support roles such as guidance counselling and year head have had a negative effect on the programmes.”

The issuing of results was met with the usual appeals for students to celebrate responsibly.

Prof Frank Murray, President of the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland and a liver specialist at Beaumont Hospital in Dublin, urged the young people “to be careful in the consumption of alcohol” and to look out for one another.

“Unfortunately every year as a result of these celebrations, we see many young people admitted to hospitals with a range of injuries, some of which can be catastrophic, as a result of harmful drinking,” he said.

The ISPCC said Leaving Cert results were a stressful and sad time for some students and it reminded them that its Childline service remained open 24 hours at 1800 666 666.

Joe Humphreys

Joe Humphreys

Joe Humphreys is an Assistant News Editor at The Irish Times and writer of the Unthinkable philosophy column