Junior Cert students aiming higher as more choose honours papers
Junior Certificate students are aiming higher, with growing numbers opting to take honours papers across the board.
The results of the 2015 exam released today show significant increases in uptake at higher level in recent years.
Almost 60,000 students are receiving their results, including six who received 12As at higher/common level, while a further 98 clinched 11As and another 236 are celebrating 10As.
Overall, candidate numbers are down 1pc on last year, to 59,522 - although there is an underlying trend of increasing enrolments at second level.
An ongoing drop in the number of candidates returning to education to sit the Junior Cert, down from 1,000 in 2012 from 756 this year, is reflected in the figures.
Education Minister Jan O'Sullivan led the congratulations to students and said they should "enjoy their celebrations and take care of each other".
Some schools are delaying the release of the results until as late as possible today to stall the start of student celebrations.
Maths is the stand-out example of rising student ambition evident in this years' figures, as Junior Cert candidates lay the foundations for senior cycle and a possible CAO 25-point bonus in the Leaving Cert.
This year, 55pc of Junior Cert maths candidates sat the honours paper, up from 48pc in 2012 and 45pc in 2010. Since 2012, a minimum 40pc mark in higher level maths in the Leaving Cert has attracted 25 extra CAO points.
There have been ongoing efforts by the Department of Education to boost educational standards by urging teachers to encourage students to aim higher generally.
If students do not take higher level in junior cycle, it can be very difficult to take it on for the Leaving Cert.
The national numeracy and literacy strategy specifically identified English and maths as subjects where students should raise their sights, but the trend is obvious across the spectrum.
In English, 75pc of candidates sat higher level, up from 72pc in 2012, while in Irish, honours level accounted for 56pc of candidates, compared with 51pc in 2012.
Examples among foreign languages include 79pc of German candidates taking honours, up from 74pc in 2012, while in French it was 78pc, compared with 74pc three years ago.
In science, 79pc sat the honours paper, up from 76pc in 2012. By doing higher level in junior cycle, students are better positioned for honours-level study in senior cycle.
This is being further encouraged by recently announced changes to the Leaving Cert grading scheme and CAO system from 2017.
These will, for the first time, award points for a mark of 30-39pc at higher level.
Another feature of this year's results is the continuing rise in students sitting the optional oral Irish exam - from 339 in 2007 to 16,259 this year.
The surge in uptake is linked to a 2012 move to increase, from 25pc to 40pc, the proportion of marks awarded in the Leaving Cert for oral Irish, which is credited with boosting higher level sits.
Ms O'Sullivan said she welcomed the continual rise in students sitting the oral Irish exam. She noted that the numbers taking the optional oral in other languages, such as Spanish and Italians had also risen.
Students who wish to appeal their results may do so through their school no later than Friday, September 25.