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Bad teachers are failing students

YOU reported a number of weeks ago that the failure rate for Project Maths students had somehow "almost halved." (Irish Independent, September 30). Right. So is the new course twice as easy? According to the DIT, a failing E grade in Leaving Cert honours maths has become the new D (Irish Independent, October 20).

Do these people have any idea of how just how weak a student must be to achieve an E after two years of study?

How on earth does this represent an improvement in our mathematics skills?

As for the 25 bonus marks for honours maths? Sure, but it looks as though we are attacking everything except the root problem.

Most students are capable of achieving an honour in honours maths in the present Leaving Cert course without breaking a sweat, but are let down by the poor standard of maths teachers.

The real problem is that poor maths teachers cannot be fired, and so will inflict enormous damage on generation after generation.

Until this problem is tackled, any changes to the maths course are just window dressing.

Years ago I had an honours maths teacher who came in every day, read the newspaper, and told us to "get on with our work".

A school with which I am familiar has an honours Leaving Cert maths teacher who specialises in reducing the number taking honours from around 30 to to two or three. Useless teaching.

Covered of course by all that "extra effort" made for the students by keeping them unnecessarily after school two evenings per week, thus eating into their study time and disrupting all other subjects.

Now it seems that homework is no longer necessary for good teaching (Letters, October 19). I appreciate that there are enormous differences between primary and secondary education but unless homework is given, a child cannot know whether he or she has grasped a concept or not. More to the point, the teacher cannot know.

Marking homework is both mind-numbing and backbreaking but it is such an intrinsic part of good teaching that, regardless of how effective a teacher believes himself or herself to be in the classroom, all effort is wasted without feedback.

The only way to teach children how to write is to have them write. The only way to teach maths is to have them do maths. And these have to be checked. It isn't rocket science.

James McGrath
Hollyford, Co Tipperary

Irish Independent