Surge in number of Junior Cert students taking higher maths
Race for extra 25 CAO points starting early
THE surge in pupil uptake in higher-level maths saw more than half of Junior Cert candidates taking the "honours" paper this year.
A record 52pc of all maths candidates in the 2013 exam took higher level, up from 46pc two years ago as students start early in the chase for 25 CAO bonus points for college entry.
While the prospect of being on track to earn CAO bonus points is regarded as the main driver, education chiefs also credit the new Project Maths syllabus with increased uptake at higher level.
Raising student performance in maths is a key plank of government policy, both to ensure that Irish teenagers are on a par with their counterparts internationally, and have the skills required for the "smart economy".
A consequence of the increased uptake is a drop in the percentage of As from 18pc in 2011 to 12pc this year, and more B, C and D grades.
Pupils are not only making the jump from ordinary level to higher – more foundation level students are opting to study for the ordinary level exam.
Congratulating the candidates, Education Minister Ruairi Quinn said he was especially pleased to see that the positive trend of more young people sitting higher level maths is continuing.
Mr Quinn also welcomed the increase to 79pc in participation at higher level in science.
Today, 59,823 candidates receive their results, up 1.7pc on last year, reflecting growing enrolments at second-level. Many schools delay the release of the results until the afternoon in a bid to prevent celebrations starting too early.
Among the candidates are 13 students who achieved 12 As, at higher level or with the common level Civic, Social and Personal Education (CSPE), while another 100 notched up 11 As and a 275 carried off 10 As.
As Junior Cert results are released, the figures show that it is not only in maths that students are aiming higher.
In a continuing trend, more and more pupils are opting to take higher level across practically all subjects, a result of a greater focus on encouraging students to raise their sights.
For instance, 73pc of English candidates took higher level, up from 70pc in 2011, while 83pc of geography pupils sat the "honours" paper, compared with 80pc two years ago.
Irish has also seen a significant jump from 49pc to 53pc in the proportion of students taking higher level, attributed, in part at least, to a change introduced in 2010, with 40pc of total marks going for an optional school-based oral exam.
A total of 10,486 pupils took the optional test compared to 7,388 students in 2012.
In science, the 79pc of pupils at higher level compares with 75pc in 2011, while in business there was a two-year jump, from 71pc to 76pc, in the proportion taking "honours".
The National Parents' Council post-primary (NPCpp) and drinkaware.ie, the drinks' industry alcohol awareness initiative, called on both parents and licensees in the on- and off-trades to be vigilant for underage drinking.
Association of Secondary Teachers' Ireland (ASTI) president Sally Maguire urged all students celebrating their results to act responsibly and to keep their parents informed.
Next September sees the introduction of new-style Junior Cert in schools, with a phased replacement of the traditional June exams with continuous assessment of students by teachers.
The ASTI is opposed to the change and Ms Maguire said that a school certificate based on grades awarded by students' own teachers did not have the same status or validity as an independent state certificate.