Oct 06 2010 Posted: 00:00 IST
NUI Galway has today announced its support for the proposed introduction of a bonus points scheme for Leaving Certificate Higher Level Mathematics. The precise scheme for the award of additional points, along with the timescale for introduction, will be agreed in consultation with the other universities, in the coming weeks. NUI Galway Registrar and Deputy President, Professor Jim Ward, indicated that while there was scepticism about the effectiveness of the scheme, the University did not wish to stand in the way of the development of a national scheme: "At a meeting of the University's Academic Council last evening, it was agreed that NUI Galway would support the introduction of bonus points on a pilot basis. We recognise the importance of encouraging more students to take honours mathematics at Leaving Certificate level. However, it would be a mistake to view bonus points as the complete solution to the maths problem in Ireland. The teaching of maths at second level by teachers who are not fully qualified to teach the subject is a more fundamental problem. We need to put supports in place to help those teachers. I would ask the Minister to now work with the Universities and the Teaching Council to put in place a programme of professional development for teachers that will enable them to gain the skills they need to teach mathematics to the required level." Professor Ward added: "The bonus points scheme will only succeed if it is part of a wider package of initiatives including ongoing reform of the mathematics curriculum, more support and training for second level teachers, and widening of access to higher mathematics so that it is offered in all schools". NUI Galway has particular expertise in the area of Mathematics Education and has introduced a range of initiatives aimed at enhancing maths education and encouraging more students to study maths at third level. In 2008, NUI Galway introduced the country's only undergraduate degree in Mathematics and Education, which qualifies graduates to teach Mathematics and Applied Mathematics to honours Leaving Certificate level in post-primary schools. The first graduates from that programme will emerge in two years' time, having already spent three years working with teachers in schools. The BA Mathematics and Education is unique in Ireland and internationally in terms of its specialist focus on the mathematical sciences, and mathematics and applied mathematics pedagogies. The programme has been developed by NUI Galway specifically to address the demonstrated need for specialist maths teachers in Irish schools. For more than 20 years, NUI Galway has also run a Special Entrance Maths Examination to give engineering applicants who did not achieve the required Higher Level Mathematics grade in the Leaving Certificate a second chance. NUI Galway also holds a free intensive preparatory course for applicants intending to sit the Special Maths Exam. In addition to preparing students for the Special Entrance Examination, lecturers demonstrate the relevance and application of mathematics to Engineering. NUI Galway has also been working with its strategic alliance partner, the University of Limerick, in running workshops for secondary school maths teachers on aspects of the new Project Maths curriculum. In addition, the University is also actively exploring opportunities to develop new part-time postgraduate programmes aimed at up-skilling secondary school mathematics teachers.