A bonus for mathematics students

 

Sir, – There have been many complaints in your pages in recent days claiming that the awarding of bonus CAO points for Leaving Certificate higher level maths amounts to discrimination against students whose academic strengths lie in other subjects. I believe that this point of view ignores many of the realities in our second-level system that have long made it difficult for students with relatively strong maths skills to obtain similar points to other students.

Far from being victims of “educational apartheid” as per Paul Huggard’s letter (August 21st), students whose talents lie in the arts, literature and/or languages are very well accommodated in our second-level schools where they will likely study a minimum of three language courses as well as usually having a good choice of liberal art subjects (often including additional languages) available to study for the Leaving Cert. The strong maths student will, however, often find that similar problem-solving/computation-type courses such as physics, applied maths, chemistry, engineering, technical drawing, etc, are not on offer in their school and they will, thus, not be able to play to their strengths.

If the strong arts/languages student struggles in the area of maths and science, they will usually find that they are required to study only one such subject – maths. If the strong maths/science student similarly struggles with languages, however, they usually find that they still have to study a minimum of three language subjects (the compulsory English and Irish as well as a continental language which is mandatory at most schools).

The awarding of bonus points for higher level maths does address the issue with the course and exam being, as was widely acknowledged, far more time-consuming and difficult than other popular subjects. The measure addresses only one aspect, however, of how our second-level education system often fails the student with strong maths skills. – Yours, etc,

DENIS HEALY,

Watergrasshill,

Co Cork.