Gloomy report card for physics

15 August 2012

Continued fall in numbers taking Leaving Certificate physics, significant gender imbalance and almost a quarter of schools are not offering physics at leaving cert level.

Children studying

As the State Examinations Commission releases the results for the 2012  Leaving Certificate the Institute of Physics has expressed serious concern about the  number of students choosing to take the physics course.

The number of students has fallen by 2% from 6516 in 2011 to 6373 in 2012, representing 11.4% of the total leaving certificate cohort of 55,815

Concern has also been expressed that nearly a quarter of second level schools across Ireland are not offering physics at Leaving Certificate level.

Dr Kevin McGuigan, Chair of the Institute of Physics in Ireland said, “Not only is physics a fascinating subject, qualifications in this area give students a real edge in competition for highly-sought after careers.  

To deny the students of 23% of Irish schools the chance to study this highly valued subject runs counter to all government efforts to increase the uptake of physical sciences at third level. This is particularly frustrating given the increase in demand for science places at third level in this year’s CAO applications."

He noted that, "it is significant that in the UK where there has been a determined effort over the past few years to increase the uptake of physics, the fruits are being seen with an almost 20% rise in the number of physics A-Level candidates over the past five years and physics now, in the top 10 most popular subjects on offer at A-Level."

Commenting on the continued gender imbalance of the entrants, he continued,  "To have girls making up only 25% of the physics leaving certificate cohort, is a real loss to society and more importantly we can be sure that there are thousands of highly able girls in Ireland who are missing valuable opportunities.”