Irish knowledge economy doomed as education fails its youth

News that an Irish engineering representative body is offering high school students free after-school tuition (grinds), for free, shows just how bad Irish math has gotten.

It’s one of Ireland’s lesser-known problems, but looks set to become one of the main impediments to growth in Ireland’s upcoming economic recovery unless educators find a way of teaching the subject which yields better results.

This latest announcement is just the latest in a long series of calls from Irish educational, political and scientific bodies to improve the teaching of math in Ireland’s high-schools in order to produce the sort of math-literate and proficient graduates that companies crucial to Ireland’s future are looking for, but are not finding enough of.

Just yesterday a Fine Gael TD called the teaching of Irish math at second level ‘just not good enough’, terminology which has already been iterated several times this year alone.

The latest solution tabled to help resolve the problem of Ireland’s math shortage is bonus points for students taking Higher Level in Ireland’s national second-level finishing exam, the Leaving Certificate. The move has been agreed upon by a number of Irish universities.

Yet amidst all the praise for the raise in bonus points - from a number of universities and most recently UCD - there’s been an equally growing concern over a rising failure rate in Ireland’s slightly more junior second level examination, the Junior Certificate.

7.4 percent of students failed the exam at the Ordinary level, a figure which was well in excess over the other two compulsory subjects in the exam, English and Irish.

Prominent amongst the Irish economic and scientific community lobbying for an improvement in the math standards is IBEC, an employer’s union, whose spokesperson Tony O’Donohue said that: "The current over-crowded, rigid and subject-based curriculum dominates secondary school organization and teaching practice’.

The math illiteracy issue extends far beyond just school-level age, though, a recent study of the adult Irish population found that 40% of those surveyed had difficulty with very simple mathematical calculations

The recent news about Irish math illiteracy, between school age and after, shows that the problem will have to be tackled head-on, before another generation of school leavers leaves school with only basic or rudimentary mathematical skills.

If Ireland is going to make scientific and high-tech advancement one of the hallmarks of its planned economic recovery, then it’s going to have to sort out its math teaching!


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