Wednesday 21 March 2018

Minister at odds with UCD over bonus points for maths scheme

John Walshe Education Editor

EDUCATION Minister Mary Coughlan has clashed with UCD over "delays" in agreeing to award bonus points for higher level maths.

Ms Coughlan said she was disappointed that no decision had yet been taken by UCD, which will now not decide its position until September.

It had been indicated to her that the Irish Universities Association (IUA) would take a decision in June and would get back to her then.

While she acknowledged the independence of the universities, she said that they were clear on her perspective and that of various reports that had favoured bonus points.

But UCD vice president for academic affairs, Dr Philip Nolan, said that there was no basis for the assertion that UCD was delaying the process.

"The agreed process was that each university would consider the bonus points issue individually before coming to a decision," he said.

Last week, Trinity College Dublin (TCD) announced that it would agree to bonus points for entry to all faculties from 2012, while the presidents of NUI Galway and Dublin City University have also indicated they will go along with bonus points. The University of Limerick already gives them.

The IUA said that it was not possible for all universities to come to a final position until the academic councils took their decisions.


There were also technical issues to be worked out about how the bonus points would be implemented and there was no point in rushing into an announcement until there was clarity about the substance and the form of the bonus points.

The Irish Independent understands that there are divisions among academics in UCD over the merits of the proposal.

Some are concerned that a blanket bonus for maths across all courses will mean that students taking higher level maths will have an advantage over others for courses such as law, where there is no requirement to be good at maths.

"There needs to be clarity in relation to the actual objective. If it is that more students pursue higher level maths at second level, that is a different objective to getting students to choose to study engineering and technology courses at third level.

"Do the objectives of the minister correspond to those stated by industry?" asked one source.

Despite their reservations, all of the universities are expected to go along with bonus points as an interim measure until Project Maths is taken by all Leaving Cert students.

UCD insists that if the decision is made to go with bonus points, then September is time enough for fifth-year students to decide whether or not to take higher level maths.

But the National Parents Council (post-primary) said it would be preferable if students knew before they returned to school in the autumn.

Spokesperson Rose Tully said that while the council had reservations about the plan, students should be told before they went back to school whether or not bonus points would be available when they sit the exam in two years' time.

Irish Independent

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