Monday 5 December 2016

Coding exam to raise interest in digital-age skills

Published 13/08/2015 | 02:30

Ireland Athletics star Jenna Bromell at Castletroy College Limerick, who got seven A1's in her leaving cert is congratulated by Minister for Education and Skills Jan O' Sullivan. Photo: Gareth Williams
Ireland Athletics star Jenna Bromell at Castletroy College Limerick, who got seven A1's in her leaving cert is congratulated by Minister for Education and Skills Jan O' Sullivan. Photo: Gareth Williams

A new Leaving Certificate subject in Computer Science/Coding could be on the cards in a shake-up in science and technology education.

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It is believed to be among a number of recommendations made in an expert group report as part of moves to raise student interest and performance in digital-age skills.

The report from the STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) Education Review Group, chaired by Dublin City University (DCU) president Professor Brian MacCraith, is currently being considered by Education Minister Jan O'Sullivan.

The group was tasked with coming up with ways to ensure that the Irish education system - at both primary and post- primary level - measures up to international best practice in the teaching and learning of these key subjects.

The publication of the report is expected soon, and comes amid positive signs around increased uptake in science and technology subjects in this year's Leaving Certificate.

However, the failure rates for some of these subjects, such as chemistry and physics, remains a cause for concern.

Engineers Ireland welcomed the 19pc increase in students taking technology, and the 5.6pc increase in numbers sitting engineering. "It is important we maintain this momentum to ensure a continued supply of qualified, skilled engineers for Ireland's economic growth," said a spokesperson.

Numbers sitting physics were up 4.6pc on last year, and 19pc on two years ago. Chemistry sits rose by 3.9pc on last year and 12pc on 2013, and applied maths candidates increased by 12.5pc in the year.

Challenge

Similar to maths, when more students take on the challenge of higher level, a fluctuattion in fail rates is anticipated, but in higher level physics it rose to a high of 9.5pc this year, up from 7.1pc two years ago.

In chemistry, the higher level fail rate was 8.6pc, broadly similar to what it has been in recent years. Fail rates in ordinary level chemistry were 18.6pc this year.

Speaking in Limerick after the release of the results, Ms O'Sullivan played down the increase to 5.2pc in fails in higher level maths and said it was positive that 27pc of students took the paper.

The proportion of students taking higher level maths has jumped from 16pc in four years since the introduction of a scheme awarding 25 bonus points for a minimum D3 grade.

A Department of Education spokesperson said a slight increase year-on-year in E, F, and NG grades was factored into planning when the bonus point scheme was introduced.

A report by the chief examiner on maths will be available in early 2016 and would fully analyse the data, said the spokesperson.

Irish Independent

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