Update: Engineering body concerned at number of students sitting Leaving Cert STEM subjects

Update - 11.12am: The representative body for engineers in Ireland has raised concerns over the number of students sitting STEM subjects in this year's Leaving Cert, saying 2018 has not seen a marked increase for the first time in several years.

Results obtained from the State Examinations Commission has shown that almost one-third of Leaving Certificate students sat the higher-level mathematics paper in 2018, a figure that has more than doubled when compared to 2011.

There has also been a small increase in students sitting the higher-level biology paper, with almost 46% of students taking the subject in 2018, an increase of almost 1% when compared to 2017 sittings.

Chartered Engineer and Engineers Ireland Registrar, Damien Owens, said: “Now, more than ever, we need to encourage students at primary and post-primary levels to equip themselves with an adequate knowledge of STEM, to study engineering at third level and go on to work in the profession."

Industry demand for engineering talent has also seen graduate engineer starting salaries increase by 11% in the past four years, Engineers Ireland said.

However, they also said that as industry demand continues, Ireland has an acute shortage of engineering skills that could undermine the Government’s Project Ireland 2040 goals.

    Percentage of Leaving Certificate Students sitting each STEM subject:

  • Higher level - 2017, 2018, Change (percentage points)
  • Biology - 45.6%, 46.4%, 0.9
  • Mathematics - 28.0%, 29.5%, 1.5
  • Chemistry - 13.9%, 13.9%, 0.0
  • Construction studies - 12.7%, 12.4%, -0.3
  • Agricultural science - 10.9%, 11.4%, 0.6
  • Physics - 10.7%, 11.0%, 0.2
  • Engineering - 7.8%, 8.2%, 0.3
  • Design & communication - 7.6%, 7.8%, 0.2
  • Applied mathematics - 3.2%, 3.2%, 0.0
  • Technology - 2.3%, 2.5%, 0.2
  • Physics & chemistry - 0.8%, 0.7%, -0.1

The body said there are major concerns regarding a shortage of Civil & Building Engineering graduates, the numbers of which decreased by 45% in the past five years.

Mr Owens said: “We are seeing new job opportunities for graduates and increasing salaries within the engineering sector, but there continues to be a shortfall of engineers to meet the needs of industry.

“The world of engineering is open to everyone - girls, boys, creative thinkers, curious minds, problem-solvers and leaders.

"Maths and science knowledge are valuable aptitudes for an engineer, however, a basic curiosity and ability to analyse the real world are also key to a lifetime of rewarding career opportunities in the engineering sector.”

Update - 9.47am: The director of the National Association of Principals and Deputy Principals (NAPD), Clive Byrne, has today offered his congratulations to Leaving Certificate students getting their exam results today.

Mr Byrne noted, in particular, the achievements of those students who achieved eight H1s.

Mr Byrne said: “On behalf of all Irish principals, deputy principals and the NAPD, I’d like to offer my congratulations to everyone receiving their Leaving Certificate results today.

The director of the National Association of Principals and Deputy Principals (NAPD), Clive Byrne.
The director of the National Association of Principals and Deputy Principals (NAPD), Clive Byrne.

"It is great to see 31% of students take higher level Maths, however it is alarming to see that more than 3,700 students in total failed their maths paper.

“I also need to highlight that the number of students taking higher-level subjects has reached a new record, a result of the change in the grading system introduced last year.

It is now important that everyone in the education system looks at measures to help all students reach their maximum potential and eliminate the failure figures we see for maths every year.

Echoing the Minister for Education, Richard Bruton, Mr Byrne said the today is the "culmination of years of hard work and sacrifices".

He said: "Hopefully, for many today, those sacrifices have paid off and their chosen path to further education or career has opened up to them.

“Passing your Leaving Certificate provides an extremely good foundation for further personal and professional development. Even if you haven’t received the results or points you hoped for, there are many other pathways to third level and a successful career.

"What matters now is that you continue to apply yourself to whatever it is that you do in life and constantly strive to hone your skills and talents.”

The NAPD are advising students and parents to speak with their teacher or school principal today if they have questions about the results, particularly what they mean for the allocation of college places on Monday.

There is also advice on the State Examinations Commission website at www.examinations.ie or they can call the National Parents Council dedicated exam helpline on 1800 265 165.

Update - 7.50am: The Teachers Union of Ireland is advising students that the Leaving Cert is a staging post, not a final destination.

TUI President Seamus Lahart is asking them to consider apprenticeship options in Further Education colleges across the country.

Mr Lahart said: The apprenticeship model our economy is crying out for has a skills-based shortage, so any of those avenues are open to them."

6.32am: Leaving Cert results see grades improvement in higher-level maths and science subjects

More than 57,000 students across the country are getting their Leaving Cert results today.

The results have seen improvements in the grades achieved in higher level maths and science subjects.

The State Examinations Commission says the results this year are broadly in line with last year's.

This is the second year of the Leaving Cert's simplified marking system, with just eight grade levels.

In Higher Maths, the percentage of students in the top three grades was up three points on last year.

The percentage of top-three grades in higher level English and Irish was down slightly on 2017.

However, there was good news for higher-level science students, with top-3 level grades in Physics and Chemistry edging up slightly.

While in Biology, the percentage of students getting one of the top-three grades jumped from 39.6% to 45% this year.

Education Minister Richard Bruton has congratulated those receiving their results, calling it the "culmination of years of hard work".

Minister Bruton said anyone who does not get the results they want, should not feel disheartened.

He said: "There are always roads back into the pathway you choose and there are many people who dropped out for a few years and came back, many people who went the apprenticeship route and became Chief Executive Officers in companies.

"The idea that one exam determines your life is not true, there are so many options for you to pursue your chosen ambitions."

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