Students to get 25-point bonus for passing honours maths
LEAVING Certificate students who pass higher-level maths will be rewarded with 25 CAO bonus points for university entry from 2012.
The current crop of fifth-year students will be the first to experience the new arrangements, being introduced on a four year trial basis. The bonus will be a standard 25, giving students 70 points for a higher level D3 up to a maximum of 125 for an A1.
The move is intended as an incentive to high-achieving ordinary level students, many of whom drop down from higher level in the hope of picking up easier points in other subjects.
Over 4,000 Leaving Certificate students achieved an ordinary level A this year, many of whom followed the higher level syllabus until midway through 6th year.
Only 16pc of Leaving Certificate students take maths at higher level, with about 2,000 students dropping to ordinary level in the months before the exam. Currently, a student is awarded 60 points for achieving an A at ordinary level and 45 points for a D3 -- the minimum pass grade at higher level. With a bonus of 25 in 2012 a student will receive 70 points for a higher level D3, giving a 10-point advantage over the ordinary level A grade.
Bonus points have been championed by Tanaiste and Education Minister Mary Coughlan, and hi-tech employers who say they need more graduates with good maths skills. But universities have huge reservations, with academics arguing that the only way to improve national maths performance is through better teaching at second-level.
Institutes of technology have also agreed to the introduction of bonus points, but have yet to announce the detail.
The detail of the scheme for universities was agreed at a meeting of the university bosses yesterday.
Irish Universities Association (IUA) chief executive Ned Costello said their specific focus was to encourage a greater uptake of higher level maths in the Leaving Certificate. He said while the bonus rewarded high achievers, it was particularly attractive to those students capable of strong results at ordinary level but who were concerned about the extra demands of the honours course.
"We are particularly anxious to address the problem of students dropping down from the higher level maths course as the leaving certificate approaches."
The IUA says bonus points should be seen as a complementary measure to the Project Maths syllabus, a new hands-on approach to teaching maths currently being rolled out.
"Ultimately, the necessary step-change in maths attainment will only come about through a combination of curriculum reform, improved teacher competence and appropriate incentives to students. There is a strong onus on Government to ensure that the full package is delivered," Mr Costello said.
The Tanaiste said the introduction of bonus points for maths sent a clear signal to Leaving Certificate students about the importance the Government attached to the study of maths.
She agreed that "bonus points are not a 'silver bullet' that will fully address the underachievement identified in maths. Rather, their introduction, combined with the full implementation of Project Maths, should together see a step-change from 2012 onwards.