More than 4,000 students have failed their Leaving Cert maths exams, effectively locking them out of many third-level courses which require a pass as a basic entry requirement.
Grades in the higher level maths paper have stabilised with more than 70 per cent securing an honour, but the failure rate in the ordinary level paper jumped from 5.8 to 9.2 per cent this year. The numbers are likely to pose fresh questions over the quality of maths tuition and recent reforms.
More than 55,000 Leaving Cert students get their exam results today with no major fluctuations in grades across most subjects. Those who applied for college will not know whether they have secured their first choice until next Monday when offers through the Central Applications Office (CAO) are made.
In general, grades do not tend to change dramatically given that the State Examinations Commission adjusts marking schemes if significant numbers of candidates are performing above or below average.
However, the numbers performing poorly in ordinary level maths will be a concern. Policymakers are desperate to attract more students to maths-intensive courses such as technology and engineering, given the shortage of graduates forecast over the coming years.
In total, 4,037 students across higher, ordinary and foundation levels did not secure a minimum D grade.
The introduction of 25 CAO bonus points for a D grade or better in the higher level maths paper led to a record 15,000 students – 28 per cent – taking the exam, a jump of about 60 per cent from before the change.
The failure rate for the higher maths paper stabilised at just under 5 per cent. Many of these 700 or so students will have the option of deferring their exam and securing CAO points under changes due to come into force in the coming academic year.
Under these reforms, an E grade would no longer be regarded as a fail and would attract points equivalent to a C grade at ordinary level.
Minister for Education Richard Bruton said the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment would look at the teaching of maths following the results.
However, he welcomed an increase in numbers taking on so-called Stem subjects – science, technology, engineering and maths – which are in demand by employers.
Congratulating students who received their results today, he encouraged them to talk to their teachers and school principals and to listen to their advice.
Today’s figures also show there are significantly fewer high achievers securing A1 grades in their exams compared to last year.
While no candidate received nine A1s this year, six students received eight A1s (down from nine last year), and 40 received seven A1s (down from 75).
* The article has been amended to correct a factual error