Bonus for maths 'will only lead to points inflation'
Published 18/06/2010 | 05:00
BONUS points for maths will simply drive up the entry requirements for courses such as medicine, pharmacy and law, it was predicted last night.
The 'points inflation' claim follows new figures which show that the majority of CAO applicants who get an honour in maths enrol in courses where they don't need them.
Of the 6,000 students with grade C or better on higher-level maths last year, only 2,500 enrolled on honours degree courses in science, engineering and technology.
The Institute of Guidance Counsellors (IGC) predicted that many applicants who get bonus points will simply "grab them and run into the traditional high-point courses", giving them an advantage over students who don't get an honour in maths.
The figures, seen by the Irish Independent, show that last year in pharmacy, 60pc of those who accepted places had grade C or better in higher-level maths. This was the highest percentage and was followed by dentistry and physiotherapy at 55pc, and medicine at 45pc. Higher-level maths is not needed for these courses.
Only 44pc of students who accepted places in engineering or technology courses had grade C or better on higher-level papers; this category included many computer courses where grade C or higher is not required. For science/applied science courses the percentage was only 27pc, behind law at almost 29pc.
As disclosed yesterday, Trinity College Dublin has agreed to an additional 'weighting' of 40pc for higher-level maths for all courses from 2012. Students who get the maximum 100 points will get an additional 40 for entry into any course.
Industry reports claim bonus points will encourage more students to study higher-level maths which, in turn, will lead to increased enrolment in engineering and science courses.
But IGC president Eilis Coakley said their introduction would discriminate between students. She said they were being rushed through as a result of pressure from interest groups -- mainly from outside the education area.
She believed not enough thought had been given to the proposal, which would create more problems than it would appear, at first glance, to solve.
But Ms Coakley said it was important to note that the implementation group on Project Maths could not reach consensus on the idea. Instead, it just listed the arguments for and against re-introducing bonus points which were in operation until 1992.
The report says that when the bonus points were removed, the percentage of students taking higher-level maths actually increased, rather than decreased.
It said also that bonus points could enable more students to take up non-science/engineering/maths courses.