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Saturday 10 December 2016

There has to be concerns when Irish teens ranked as 'average' in such a vital subject

Published 14/09/2016 | 02:30

Irish second-level schools allocate 12pc of time to maths, in line with international norms. But, that is 12pc of a 167-day year, compared with 200 days in Australia, 240 in Germany and Japan and 280 in Singapore (Stock image)
Irish second-level schools allocate 12pc of time to maths, in line with international norms. But, that is 12pc of a 167-day year, compared with 200 days in Australia, 240 in Germany and Japan and 280 in Singapore (Stock image)

There is a fundamental inequality about an education system where students are not allocated the same amount of class time for a subject such as maths.

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Whether it is high-achieving students pursuing a level of excellence that not only they, but the economy, needs, or weaker pupils who need all the tuition they can get, they deserve equal treatment, as relatively high "fail" rates in ordinary level maths at both leaving and junior cert attest.

International league tables rank Irish teens as "average" in maths, causing much concern over the years, and great effort has gone into trying to raise performance. This new report on maths instruction time in Ireland may hold some new clues as to where else to look for answers.

Irish second-level schools allocate 12pc of time to maths, in line with international norms. But, as the report points out, that is 12pc of a 167-day year, compared with 200 days in Australia, 240 in Germany and Japan and 280 in Singapore.

The report shows how many schools are not even delivering the 12pc, with some first years timetabled for 67 hours' maths tuition in the year, well below the recommended 111 hours.

Others are well ahead of the national average, but that may not necessarily be a good thing either, as school inspectors' reports tell us that extra maths classes are often laid on for the 'honours' students.

If so, at the expense of what other subject? Sometimes PE is sacrificed in the interests of a school keeping up its reputation for high grades, but hardly in the wider interests of pupils.

Even what is timetabled may not happen. Classes are cancelled for events such as sports days, which undoubtedly is common practice internationally, but the Irish "mocks" take another large slice out of the official allocation.

The report provides an unprecedented picture of tuition time for maths in Irish second-level schools and findings that deserve the attention of the policy-makers.

Irish Independent

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