A MAJOR third-level college has decided that Leaving Certificate students who get a failing E grade in higher level maths will now be deemed to have passed the subject.
Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT) has announced the concession for the 2012 exams on top of also agreeing to introduce 25 points for a pass (minimum D3) at higher level.
Meanwhile, a final decision on bonus points from the 13 other institutes of technology is still awaited.
Education Minister Mary Coughlan hopes to introduce the bonus points in 2012 as a way of encouraging students to stick with higher level maths and boost national performance in maths generally.
Government and employers, particularly multinationals, say it is imperative to improve maths standards in order to ensure that the country has the necessary skills for the so-called smart economy.
A meeting of the board of Institute of Technology Ireland (IoTI), representing the 13 institutes, decided yesterday that a common national position on bonus points was desirable.
The seven universities led the way with a recent decision to award 25 bonus points for a pass on the higher level paper, for a trial four-year period, from 2012, which is now supported by DIT.
The other institutes of technology will now support that line, though no final decision was taken yesterday. Instead, each institute was asked to get formal approval for a final position through their own internal processes.
Meanwhile, the DIT move to equate an E grade at higher level with a D3 at ordinary level is a further incentive to students to raise their sights in maths.
While no extra points would be awarded, a student would be deemed to have passed the subject, and so meet a basic requirement for many courses.
This year almost 250 students got an E in higher level maths and even though their skills may be superior to those of many ordinary level students, they were automatically excluded from a range of courses where a pass is required.
Although the push for bonus points has come from industry, and the Government, legally, the criteria for admission to higher education institutions are a matter to be decided by the colleges themselves.
Yesterday, Ms Coughlan welcomed the news that all institutes of technology had agreed to adopt a common national position for bonus points.
She said she was now awaiting the decisions of each of the relevant Academic Councils.
The universities have also decided that the bonus points for maths will require an adjustment to the way points are counted for medicine.
Since the introduction of the HPAT aptitude test, the maximum CAO points allowed for medicine has been reduced from 600 to 560, to which the HPAT score is added.
Even though higher level maths is not currently a requirement for medicine, students achieving at that level would stand to gain an extra 25 points, which would further skew the situation.
The universities have now decided that the Leaving Certificate points cap for medicine for someone presenting with a minimum of a pass in higher level maths will be 565, rather than 560.