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O'Keeffe to keep 'open mind' about extra points for maths

Shane Hickey and Katherine Donnelly

Published 11/02/2010 | 05:00

THE prospect of the return of extra points for Leaving Certificate higher-level maths moved a step closer yesterday after Education Minister Batt O'Keeffe said he now has an "open mind" on the matter.

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Mr O'Keeffe yesterday said he was open to suggestions on awarding extra points for the subject -- after having previously indicated he did not support the initiative.

His comments come amid a storm of criticism from multinational companies about Ireland's competitiveness.

Earlier this week, a key adviser to US President Barack Obama said Ireland's education system needed to do better and that there should be a bias towards maths and science subjects to increase graduates in these areas.

Employers in science, technology and engineering want the bonus points to ensure a steady supply of highly qualified graduates to work in the smart economy.

The Irish Independent has learned that the majority of members of the task force on innovation also favour bonus points for maths.

The minister has previously pinned his hopes on a major overhaul of how the subject is taught, under the 'Project Maths' initiative. This is a hands-on, problem-solving approach to teaching.



Positive

Initial feedback from the 24 second-level schools where it is being tested is said to be extremely positive.

However, yesterday, Mr O'Keeffe appeared to have softened his approach to the extra points following the public announcement by multinational companies.

He said a "high-level group" was examining the maths curriculum and the points for the subject.

"The industry is saying we should introduce bonus points. Rather than just ignoring the call, I have put this high-level group together. I have called in industry, universities and my own individuals and they will report back to me at the end of the spring," he said.

"I want to have an open mind. We have to look at Ireland as a country. We have to look at if bonus (points) act as a stimulus for young people to go into the sciences and technology. Then I think it is worth looking at."

Leading industrialist Dr Craig Barrett, the former CEO of Intel and an adviser to Mr Obama, said this week there was a problem of students taking subjects where "there is a higher probability of getting more points for less work".

Irish Independent

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