Teachers have added their voice to concerns about the impact of bonus college entry points for higher level maths students as third-level applicants wait for offers on Monday.
College admission officers are finalising offers to thousands of applicants over the weekend with the CAP, which will be giving 25 additional points to any Leaving Certificate student with a pass or better in higher-level maths.
Following concerns that the jump in students sitting higher-level maths by almost 3,000 to 11,000 could have a distorting effect on points requirements, a teacher union has added its voice to calls for amendments to the bonus system.
Figures obtained by the Irish Examiner show that, even before bonus points are added, the Leaving Cert class of 2012 has outperformed last year’s with 10,700 scoring at least 450 points — 500 more than in 2011 — or 20.4% of all who sat the exams compared to 18.8% a year ago.
Áine Hyland, chairwoman of the 1999 Points Commission review group and author of a major document ahead of last autumn’s conference on the points system, has suggested the bonus points would be better suited for use to allocated places only on courses with a strong maths content.
The Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI) predicts the changes could deprive some students of places in disciplines that are not maths-based.
General secretary John MacGabhann said: "The Leaving Certificate is already a high stakes examination and the provision of bonus points for honours maths is further raising these stakes.
"We have a real concern that the new incentive will unfairly penalise those students whose relative strengths lie in subject areas other than maths, squeezing them out of those disciplines of greatest interest to them in which their relative strengths lie."
While Education Minister Ruairi Quinn has acknowledged that such students may be affec-ted, he said this week that the bonus points would be given at least another two years before any major review. The maths bonus points were considered the main factor behind the proportion of Leaving Cert maths students taking the higher level papers in June jumping from 16% last year to a record 22.1%. However, the Project Maths syllabus, which was partially examined this summer, is also seen as a reason.
The 18% rise in the number of CAO applicants choosing science degrees as their first preference, combined with the bonus points, will probably see first-round points for many of these courses rise. However, there have been falls in demand for degrees in areas such as teaching, arts and social science, with small increa-ses in first preferences for business, nursing, and agriculture.
The 76,000 CAO applicants can check for offers from 6am on Monday.
The National Parents Council Post-Primary helpline re-opens on Monday and Tuesday from 8am to 7pm, and until 2pm on Wednesday, on 1800 265165.
Journalist: Niall Murray