Written Answers - Points System.

Paul Bradford

Question:

86 Mr. Bradford asked the Minister for Education and Science if his Department has concluded its evaluation of the report by the Commission to assess the leaving certificate points system; if he will bring forward legislative or other proposals in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12301/01]

As the Deputy will be aware, the report of the Commission on the Points System recommends that the points system be retained on the basis that it is well established, is broadly fair and transparent and is generally accepted by the public at large. Nonetheless, the report identified a number of weaknesses and drawbacks in the current system and makes recommendations on a wide range of issues including lifelong learning, access to third level education for mature students, students from disadvantaged backgrounds and students with disabilities, entry to healthcare courses and the leaving certificate grading and points system.

On the question of access to third level education, I appointed an action group last September, chaired by Dr. Cormac MacNamara, to advise me on the development of a co-ordinated framework to promote access by students with disabilities, students from disadvantaged backgrounds and mature second chance students. The group was asked to consider the specific interventions which would be most effective in making further progress in this area. I have now received the report of the action group. At present I am considering the recommendations and hope to be in a position to make an initial response in the near future.

Following careful consideration of the recommendation that the bonus marks for answering through Irish in the leaving certificate be abolished, I have decided to retain the present system of awarding bonus marks. In taking this decision I took account of the wider issues of public policy towards the Irish language.

Having regard to the relevant statutory provisions, many of the recommendations in the report fall within the responsibility of third level institutions themselves. The Higher Education Authority is pursuing these recommendations with the relevant institutions and will report to me as soon as possible. My Department has also requested the Higher Education Authority to establish a committee to explore the issue of introducing a preliminary third level course in life sciences as a prerequisite for entry into the healthcare courses.