The wait is almost over for students as 117,000 prepare for exams start
Huge rise in number of candidates taking higher level maths
RECORD numbers of Leaving Cert and Junior Cert candidates will take higher level maths in this year's state exams.
The surge in uptake is a big boost for Ireland Inc and efforts by Government and employers to produce enough graduates with the skills necessary to build economic recovery.
It shows that school leavers are heeding advice about where the jobs will be and laying the foundation for their future careers.
Almost 117,000 candidates are entered for the 2013 exams starting tomorrow, with the figures for the Junior Cert confirming the boom in second-level students coming through the system.
Exam security measures have been tightened this year to avoid a repeat of a packing error that forced exam chiefs to issue a replacement Leaving Cert Irish paper and CD in 2012.
The big increase in students taking higher level maths follows the introduction of 25 bonus points for those who achieve at least a Grade D in the higher level paper in the Leaving Cert.
The incentive was designed to reverse the "below average" performance of Irish teenagers in maths and encourage them to persevere with study at higher level.
It is part of government efforts to boost the pool of school leavers with the necessary skills to study for, and fill 'smart economy' jobs in engineering, science and technology.
A recent employers' survey showed that about 4,500 jobs in information and communications technology are going unfilled and many thousands more may not be created here because of a lack of skilled personnel.
Students have responded in their thousands and this year's figures show continuing growth, building on last year's increased uptake.
According to eve-of-exam figures from the State Examinations Commission, 15,132 students are preparing for the higher level paper in the Leaving Cert. That is up from 12,900 this time last year and represents a hike of 45pc on the pre-exam figure of 10,435 two years ago, before the bonus was introduced.
While some candidates may change their mind on the day of the exam, any fall-off would be from a historically high base.
Typically, on the day of the exams, about 2,000 Leaving Cert maths candidates who previously indicated they would take higher level opt for the ordinary level papers.
The pattern is similar among Junior Cert candidates, with 31,804 students signing up to take the higher level paper.
That represents 53pc of all Junior Cert candidates, up from 49pc last year and an even higher jump when compared with previous years.
The surge at Junior Cert reflects the need to think about Leaving Cert choices well in advance of entering the senior cycle. A student who has not at least attempted higher level maths in the Junior Cert has little or no chance to study it at higher level for the Leaving Cert.
The 25-point bonus is likely to contribute to a rise in CAO points for some college courses, although last year the effect was limited, and concentrated on courses strongly associated with maths.
While points for engineering, science and computing courses showed an increase, points for arts programmes were static or down. CAO applications figures are showing a switch away from careers in more traditional areas such as teaching, architecture and law, where there is an oversupply of graduates.
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