Course to tackle shortage of maths teachers
THE shortage of properly trained maths teachers in schools is finally being tackled, with a new university-level course for those teaching the subject without a qualification.
The move comes amid growing concerns about maths standards among Irish teenagers and the quality of teaching in the subject.
Surveys show that between one-third and half of maths teachers in second-level schools are not qualified in the subject.
The new, two-year diploma course is the first real effort to get to grips with the problem.
Second-level teachers are recognised as qualified if they have a degree, and a diploma in education, commonly known as the HDip.
The rules have allowed them to teach subjects other than their major degree subjects.
The hope is that the new course will ensure that schools have a ready supply of properly qualified maths teachers.
The shortage of proper teachers is linked to poor student performance in maths, both in the state exams, and in Ireland's below average showing in international league tables.
Schools often use staff with a science or business qualification to teach maths.
Unqualified maths teachers tend to teach ordinary-level classes, in non-exam years, which may explain the 10pc fail rate among Leaving Certificate ordinary-level students.
Poor maths teaching may also contribute to the low take-up at higher level of a subject that is central to developing the analytical skills needed for jobs in the modern economy.
The Department of Education is providing €2m for the course, which will lead to a Professional Diploma in Maths for Teaching.
The rollout of the programme also coincides with the need to equip teachers with the skills and knowledge to tackle the new Project Maths syllabus.
The course is fees-free and part-time, but teachers will have to do it in their own time and, while much will be done online, there will be some classes.
It is being run by the University of Limerick's National Centre for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching and Learning, which has been to the forefront in identifying the problem.
Classes will also be conducted in other colleges around the country. About 400 second-level teachers are expected to sign up for the programme in the autumn.