Belfast Telegraph

Coughlan confirms maths revamp plan

Bonus points for better grades in Leaving Certificate maths could be introduced in two years, Tanaiste Mary Coughlan has revealed.

Amid intense criticism from business leaders over maths and science education, the Education Minister committed to rolling out the Project Maths scheme nationwide to improve hands-on skills. The country's seven universities, some of which privately support bonus points for maths, are expected to decide whether to back the change in the early autumn.

"I would be hopeful that by 2012 we will see bonus points for mathematics," the Tanaiste said.

Leaving Certificate students saw a worrying 10% failure rate in ordinary level maths and in total more than 4,000 students failed at different levels of the exam.

Mrs Coughlan said the new Project Maths - a pilot scheme in 24 schools which only had a 5.4% fail rate - would be rolled out across the country. It is based on providing hands-on, problem solving skills but has also been criticised for potentially leaving some students out of their depth when they reach university maths standards.

The American Chamber of Commerce, which represents big US business in Ireland, said there were questions over the level of investment in education, hours spent on maths and science and how the subjects are taught.

Mrs Coughlan said bonus points would encourage students to spend a considerable amount of time doing higher level maths.

Fine Gael education spokesman Fergus O'Dowd claimed the Tanaiste's comments had spread confusion by not announcing if the bonus system would definitely be in place for 2012 results.

He said: "The minister has one question to answer: Is maths bonus points being introduced for 2012? Her wishy-washy statements help nobody.

"Now, with only 12 days until the beginning of the school year, the minister muddies the water even more. Students starting fifth year in a week-and-a-half and who will be sitting the 2012 Leaving Cert need clarity. Many may have already chosen to pursue ordinary level maths and schools have allocated teachers, classrooms and drawn up timetables. They all need to know whether bonus points are going to be introduced or not."

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