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First steps to a rewarding future

More students than ever before -- mostly successful Leaving Certificate candidates, but also thousands of others who have entered the system in a variety of ways -- have received offers of places in third-level education from the Central Applications Office this year.

Unquestionably this is very good news, an indication of our country's social health and economic hope. It is also good news that according bonus points for mathematics has helped to generate a record number of applications -- and that there are sufficient places for all those who have qualified.

Many have questioned the bonus points decision. The points system has its defects, but its very rigidity illustrates its fairness. To tinker with it, even for the best of reasons, is dangerous.

However, nothing succeeds like success, and there were strong arguments in favour of the move. Employers, especially in the hi-tech sector, had expressed dissatisfaction with the education system's record in maths and science. The drawbacks have now been partly overcome. And the bonus points awards are a pilot scheme, not a permanent arrangement.

Meanwhile, it is worth remembering that higher mathematics will always remain the preserve of a small minority. For the rest of us, graduates or not, there are abundant choices of rewarding careers. And people can enter the most satisfying careers at any age and in any economic climate. At 18, the voyage of discovery is only beginning.

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