UCD backs maths bonus points
Most colleges demand change
A MAJORITY of Irish universities now favour the re-introduction of bonus points for higher level maths in the Leaving Cert from 2012.
This follows yesterday's move by the UCD Academic Council to support bonus points for a four-year trial period. Trinity and DCU have already backed bonus points while the University of Limerick has used them for years.
This will put severe pressure on both UCC and NUI Galway, whose academic councils have come out against bonus points. The remaining university, NUI Maynooth has yet to outline its position.
The Irish Universities Association, which represents all seven institutions, meets early next month when it will try to secure a common position and a single scheme for all colleges.
The Government says that bonus points will result in more students taking maths at higher level and that this will boost numbers taking maths-related courses at third level. But its own project maths implementation group could not reach a consensus on the issue.
Bonus points were ended in the early nineties but retained by the University of Limerick and for a handful of courses in the DIT.
Dr Philip Nolan, UCD Deputy President, said bonus points would only be successful if they were part of a number of measures to interest students in maths, to ensure the best possible teaching.
But the university recognised the danger that bonus points may contribute to increased competition, or a worsening "points race" for high points courses. Another danger was that students who did not require high points for entry to their chosen course might not see bonus points as much of an incentive to persist with higher level maths.
UCC indicated last night that it was insisting on getting assurances from Education Minister Mary Coughlan that all schools will be able to offer higher level maths and that steps are taken to improve qualification levels of maths teachers.
Last year 79 schools did not have a single student taking higher level maths -- in many cases this was because they did not have sufficiently qualified teachers.
A UCC spokesperson said there was also serious concern over the fact that up to half the maths teachers did not take it as a major degree subject.
There were other unanswered questions such as how would bonus points work for entry into medicine.
NUI Galway sources said the university would take a pragmatic approach, despite its view that bonus points would not make a huge difference. "At least people now see that they are not the silver bullet some had claimed," said one source.
UCD's decision was not without opposition, especially from the students' union. Its president Paul Lynam said it would mean that applicants could get into arts with five D grades and higher level maths which would attract bonus points.