Sunday 18 February 2018

We can't be a smart economy until we get the basics right

Ultimately it can't do any harm to bring exam results down to a more realistic level, writes Eilis O'Hanlon

FOR those relying on the next generation to dig us out of a hole, last week's Leaving Cert results made depressing reading, with high failure rates not only in maths and science, but business too. Bill Cullen would surely say that passing exams doesn't mean a thing when it comes to the real world of buying and selling your way out of trouble, and he's right; but failing them is nothing to write home about either.

More than 4,000 students flunked Leaving Cert maths this year. Not did a bit worse than expected, or narrowly squeaked through in the face of adversity, but failed entirely.

Education Minister Mary Coughlan is promising to look into the matter yet again, with a promise that bonus points will be given for maths from 2012 to encourage students to take the subject at Higher Level rather than drop it for one of the easier subjects where you get maximum points just for turning up in matching socks. It won't make much difference. Assuming that it happens at all, and doesn't get shot down in flames like so many other proposals which have come and gone in the Department of Education down the years as they react on the hoof to whatever happens to be hitting the headlines any given month. It used to be the poor state of Irish language learning which caused consternation. Now it's maths. The song remains the same. In the meantime, we slip further into mediocrity.

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