One in five students chose lower level paper after taking higher level course
Fine Gael Cork East TD, David Stanton, has called for a second chance system to be introduced for Leaving Certificate higher level maths, to encourage more students to take on the subject.

“If Ireland is serious about carving out an economy that can support high-value, knowledge based industries we cannot ignore the issue of the falling numbers of students sitting higher level maths in their Leaving Certificate. Maths is essential for a wide range of high-end sectors, including science and technology. Yet a recent parliamentary question that I tabled in the Dáil revealed that while more than 10,500 pupils studied the subject in 2010, only 8,390 actually sat the exam. In other words, one in five students chose to drop down to lower level ahead of exam time.

“These figures indicate a worrying trend. Students are clearly put off by the prospects of failing the maths exam, and the implications that would have for them. Many third level courses simply will not accept a student who hasn’t passed the subject. However there are some exceptions; Waterford Institute of Technology allows students who fail higher level maths to do another maths exam in order to be accepted. Why couldn’t this model be replicated on a national level?

“I think we should consider a ‘second chance’ approach for students taking higher levels maths so if they fail the subject, they would have the chance to sit it again before the beginning of the new college year. Why should a student who may have achieved excellent Leaving Certificate results be denied access to third level simply because they failed maths? I believe more students would take the subject at higher level if a safety net was put in place. At the moment we can’t blame them for not being willing to take the risk.

“While initiatives such as Project Maths and bonus points for higher level maths are welcome, they clearly don’t go far enough. For example, the response to my parliamentary question shows that the numbers of students sitting the higher level exam after taking part in Project Maths increased by only 1.7%. What’s more, the numbers of students taking higher level maths is hugely out of line with other subjects. One in three students sat higher level Irish in 2010, and three out of four took higher English. But the corresponding figure for those taking higher maths is just one in every six students.

“I am glad that the Minster has committed to considering my suggestion for second-chance opportunities for students taking higher level maths, and I hope serious progress can be made on the issue over the coming school year.”