Sunday 22 October 2017

Call for exam rewards to build a nation of maths whizzes

Katherine Donnelly

Katherine Donnelly

STUDENTS who sit higher level Leaving Certificate maths should be rewarded with even higher bonus points, a new report by a Government think tank said yesterday.

The report bluntly warns that Ireland has no hope of competing with the best economies in the world unless it cracks the country's "average" ranking in maths. The report for the National Competitiveness Council makes a direct link between the maths performance of 15-year-olds, as measured by the international Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa) study, and national economic progress.

It cautions against the "widespread and dangerous view that maths is just another subject" and says that all students, including those studying at ordinary level, must be encouraged to aim higher.

A key recommendation is to offer greater incentives to reward students who sit maths higher level because its two papers make it a "double examination subject".

Dr Sean McDonagh, one of the report's authors, said last night that the introduction this year of a flat 25 bonus points for those passing maths higher level -- a minimum D3 -- did not go far enough.

He said there should be a scale with, perhaps, an additional 50 given to those who achieve at the highest level.

The report also calls for a raising of the minimum maths entry requirement for a raft of third-level courses from an ordinary level D3 to a C2.

And it recommends that where maths is a required subject for entry to a course, it should be included among the six subjects counted for CAO points purposes, so as to discourage students from doing the minimum.

The report notes that performance in maths is the biggest single indicator of a student's progress at college, and cites "convincing" international evidence that national maths achievement is an important measure of future national competitiveness.

It expresses concern about the performance of Irish students at the highest levels in the OECD PISA tests, carried out in 65 countries, and says it raises questions about whether education systems are laying the foundations for high achievement.

The National Competitiveness Council advises on competitiveness issues facing the economy and makes recommendations on policy actions needed.

Irish Independent

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