Wednesday 21 March 2018

Academy warns against science cutbacks

Katherine Donnelly

THE boost enjoyed by science in this year's Junior Certificate lost some of its gloss as a leading academic body warned of the impact of cutbacks on the subject.

Education Minister Mary Coughlan highlighted the 88pc of candidates who took science as an encouraging sign for the needs of 'smart economy'.

At Leaving Certificate level, science is broken up between a number of different subjects, such as physics and chemistry

The minister said that, along with maths at higher level, science was one of the subjects that was important for the economy. But the Royal Irish Academy (RIA) yesterday pointed to a recent survey that showed that 14pc of schools had dropped a science subject in the past year as a result of cutbacks.

RIA's science secretary Peter Mitchell said it was also a matter of "utmost concern" that 20pc of schools indicated that they may drop a science subject this year.

"This disturbing trend runs contrary to the Government's stated objective of improving the mathematical and scientific literacy of second-level students and risks compromising the pipeline of well-qualified scientists and technologists on which the country's future economic prospects are so crucially predicated," he said.

Prof Mitchell said it also sent the wrong message to international investors and the multi-national sector.

The academy has called for science teaching to be exempt from the Government's embargo on filling posts. The RIA said if Ireland was to move to the forefront of the smart economies there must be increased emphasis on science education.

It welcomed the Government's commitment to sustaining a high level of investment in research and development and supported the Government's repeated emphasis on the need to create a smart economy built on technological innovation and high skill levels in the sciences and engineering.

But it stated that a key element in underpinning this ambitious goal was the breadth and vibrancy of science education at second level.


The academy welcomed the decision to commence the rollout of the 'Project Maths' programme of reform in all second-level schools this autumn and called for similar urgency in relation to the sciences.

Meanwhile, Fine Gael education spokesperson Fergus O'Dowd said the Junior Cert results once again raised concerns about maths, with only 45pc of students taking the higher-level paper and one in 12 failing at ordinary level.

"Not only does Ireland need more students taking maths at Leaving Cert level, we also need to improve the results. A look at how maths is taught from primary level up is needed."

Fine Gael innovation and research spokesperson Deirdre Clune said the Government was still not addressing the underlining problems whereby two out of every three students sitting higher-level maths in the Junior Cert were dropping it for their Leaving Cert.

Irish Independent

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