Saturday 25 November 2017

Results spark new fears over standard of maths

Katherine Donnelly

Katherine Donnelly

THE Junior Cert results have re-ignited worries about low maths standards among Irish students.

Only 45pc of candidates took maths at higher level -- the lowest uptake of all subjects apart from typewriting and environmental and social studies.

Maths also has high failure rates, with one in 20 candidates achieving less than a D grade.

The failure rate was highest at ordinary level, with 7.4pc of candidates achieving less than D compared with 1.6pc in Irish, 1.8pc in English and 4.4pc in science. Poor performance in maths at Junior Cert level feeds into disappointing outcomes at the Leaving Certificate and beyond in skills deemed critical for the 'smart economy' jobs of the future.

Meanwhile, after the Junior Cert results published later today, students were again advised not to allow drink or drugs enter their celebrations.

Some schools made arrangements for a day-out, or delayed handing out the results, in order to keep a rein on students. The results were also available online from 4pm today.

The State Examinations Commission (SEC) has given an assurance that no one lost out as a result of an error in a question on the business studies paper. The commission said that the marking scheme for the paper was revised to facilitate the range of possible approaches to the question and the answers provided by candidates. Candidates may appeal results and applications must be made through the school before 5pm on Friday, October 1. The fee is €32 per subject which will be refunded in the event that a result is upgraded.

Overall, the results were broadly in line with previous years. Among the highest achievers were eight candidates who scored 12 As.

Although the 45pc of students taking maths at higher level represents an improvement on 42pc on 2005, it remains low and compares with 68pc for English, 79pc for German and 81pc for music.

After maths, Irish has the second lowest proportion of students taking higher level, at only 49pc, while there is also a continuing decline in the number studying the subject.


Only 85pc of Junior Cert candidates sat Irish this year, down from 88pc five years ago and it compares with 99pc for English and maths, 91pc for geography, 90pc for history and 88pc for science.

Congratulating all candidates, Education Minister Mary Coughlan said she was encouraged that over 88pc of students took science and that the proportion of students taking higher level maths had increased to 45pc. An overhaul of the Junior Certificate is on the way, to allow for greater flexibility in teaching and learning and to take some of the emphasis off the final exam.

Employers' body IBEC said reform of the junior cycle must have a less examination-focused curriculum, which would emphasise a broader range of skills and stimulate pupils' enthusiasm for learning.

IBEC's head of education policy Tony Donohue said: "The current over-crowded, rigid and subject-based curriculum dominates secondary school organisation and teaching practice.

"This represents a major missed opportunity to encourage the types of creativity, flexibility, independent thinking and appetite for learning that are so critical in later stages of education and work."

Irish Independent

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