Tuesday 20 March 2018

O'Keeffe defends training of maths teachers

Katherine Donnelly

Education Minister Batt O'Keeffe has challenged a report claiming that half of maths teachers in post-primary schools are not qualified to teach the subject.

Mr O'Keeffe produced figures showing that 65pc of maths teachers had the subject as a major component in their degree.

He was responding to a survey by the National Centre for Excellence on Mathematics and Science Learning at the University of Limerick (UL), which showed 48pc of post-primary maths teachers are not qualified in the subject.

Mr O'Keeffe said while the 65pc figure was unsatisfactory, it was an improvement on the 52pc quoted in the UL study.

UL senior project officer Dr Maire Ni Riordain said yesterday that they could only report on what they found in a nationally representative sample.

The study raised worries about how the Irish education system is equipped to prepare students for the smart economy.

Mr O'Keeffe said a number of initiatives were underway to improve performance and drive more students into science, technology, engineering and maths courses.


He said the new approach to teaching maths, Project Maths, which is based on the practical application of the subject, would begin in all post-primary schools in September.

His department is also investing €5m this year in professional development for maths teachers.

As part of that, intensive courses are being developed for two groups of teachers -- those who need extra support with the probability and statistics, and those for whom maths is not a major qualification in their degree.

Mr O'Keeffe has also set up a high-level group to report on how best to achieve the objectives of Project Maths and to increase take-up of maths at higher level in the Leaving Certificate.

Fine Gael education spokesperson Brian Hayes said the UL report showed an urgent need for teachers already in the system to have their skills upgraded and for students with maths degrees to be encouraged into teaching.

Labour education spokesperson Ruairi Quinn said: "How can we as an economy develop in the areas of science, technology and communications if we cannot produce school-leavers who have a comprehensive grounding in mathematics, and how can we do that if the very maths teachers themselves are under qualified in the subject?"

Irish Independent

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