Republic’s schools struggling with higher maths?

Leaving Cert yesterday, A Levels today. And the Irish Times has its usual ‘lovely girls’ picture on the front page. Yesterday’s results brought mixed news. Maths and Science performances were noticiably down on previous years: “Only 6,710 of the 50,000 taking the Leaving achieved an honours mark (Grade C or higher ) in maths. Four times this figure (24,136) gained an honour in English.”

Yesterday, Olwyn Enright attacked Education Minister, Mary Hanafin:

“Once again, the Leaving Certificate results have exposed the soft underbelly of Ireland’s supposed move towards a ‘knowledge economy’. The figures speak for themselves, and show that the Government remains blind to the need for reform in how key subjects are taught and examined.”

Today Mary Hanafin’s answer is to ask the Republic’s Universities to award bonus points to those seeking entry to third level. Sean Flynn in the Irish Times:

Ms Hanafin acknowledged higher level maths was seen as “too difficult” when compared to other subjects. She hoped that new syllabus proposals in maths would change the perception of higher level maths as being unduly difficult. The new maths course, which places a stronger emphasis on problem solving, will be rolled out on a pilot basis in schools next year. But it could be at least September 2009 before it is fully implemented.

Ms Hanafin acknowledged that the problems in maths were deep-seated in Irish education, although it is an international phenomenon. The chief examiner in maths has commented on the poor grasp of basic maths concepts among many students and the inability of students to answer less predictable questions.

In the international league tables prepared by the OECD, Irish 15 year olds are ranked in mid-table in maths. By comparison, Irish teenagers rank in the top three states when it comes to literacy skills.

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  • Oilibhear Chromaill

    Whatever about the students of the Republic struggling with maths, it’s obvious that Mick would struggle with the English paper. After all surely he knows “And the Irish Times has it’s usual ‘lovely girls’ picture on the front page” contains an incorrect usage of ”it’s”. ”It’s” is an abbreviation of ‘it is’ and should never be used as a possessive pronoun.

    As for Hanafin and the Leaving Certificate, it’s a joke this ongoing reliance on a Victorian educational mechanism to prepare students to take their place in the working world. Why can’t we have an education system rather than an examination system. The reason there’s a low take up of higher level maths is that students don’t want to burden themselves with such a heavy workload as they try and gain points for the required course at third level. So they take an easier option and concentrate their efforts on subjects which may yield them more points.

    Mary Hanafin, rather than reforming the system to make it more compatible with the 21st century, is tinkering with it. It would be funny except it has such disastrous consequences for young people setting out in life.

  • An irritating fault, I grant you Oilli… My blog English is not as poor as my blog Irish as you have been kind enough to point out in the past… My apologies… Now, about the subject in hand…

  • Kloot

    I think Oilibhear may have hit it on the head there. These days its all about picking the subjects that produce the easiest results. Its the way the system has geared students unfortunately.


    Spotted a double for you walking through Donnybrook last friday, unless it was of course your good self.

  • must have been my body double… I was roaming the barren wastes of East Down last Friday, juking the rain and looking for a chippie that does anything veggie to go with the ‘main course’.

  • Harry Flashman

    Don’t knock the “lovely girl” photos they’re a highlight of every summer. It’s not just the Irish Times either, all the news organisations do it, especially the BBC which always goes to some girls’ public school to video Cressida and Fiona in light summer halter tops hugging each other in delight at their respective results.

    Hey enjoy it, there’s nothing better than watching some nubile posh totty indulging in light sapphic celebration. You just know sooner or later some dreary Beeb “social inclusion” commissar in sensible shoes will be demanding that they film black boys celebrating at Peckham High shooting high fives and their former classmates or burkha clad girls at Bradford Comp exchanging demure hand shakes over their results before they go off to get married to their second cousins from Lahore.

  • guub

    Is our chldren learning?

  • Gréagóir O’ Frainclín

    Too many rich kids now in the south. The days are long gone when an education was your passport. Ipods, mobile phones, cars, jobs etc… are the interests and luxuries for the kiddies.

  • George

    Yeah, yeah, the youth of today Gréagóir….

    There was an 8.28 per cent increase in students taking further maths A-Levels this year in the UK while overall figures went up for the 25th year in a row.

    Does this mean the UK is not struggling in this area and their kids aren’t interested in the luxuries of which you speak?

  • Gréagóir O’ Frainclín

    Na, it means that Irish kids are not interested in maths!

  • The Pict

    Or that UK maths is dumbed down enough to be more attractive?

  • John

    Actually, a far higher proportion of students take maths in the Republic than in the UK. Just over 50,000 take maths A’ Level in the UK, about the same number that take Leaving Cert Maths in the Republic. When the population difference is taken into account, the difference in the per capita figures is enormous. No doubt this is because students in The Republic take 8 or 9 Leaving Cert subjects, compared with the 2 or 3 A’ Level subjects that UK students take.

  • Joe

    More do Maths at Leaving Cert than at A-Level because is almost compulsory – the level you take is an option. Also – many Irish 3rd level courses require Maths at Leaving cert – for some reason.
    From what I have seen with my kids – the teaching of Maths in Ireland (well at their school) – seems to consist of memorising lots of formula instead of explaining things.

  • realist

    No wonder they’re cat at Maths down der-dey tink dat 6 might go into 26 one day-begorrah

  • lib2016


    Nah! They just know that two is going into thirty-two as we post.