The circular which issued on the revised junior certificate science syllabus provided that 10% of the marks would apply to mandatory experiments and investigations which students would be required to complete and record in a laboratory notebook over the three years of the course, together with a further 25% of the marks in respect of two specified investigations in the third year of the course, which would be set by the examining body. Arrangements for finalising the detail of the marking systems are being made by the State Examinations Commission.
Overall, I am satisfied with the arrangements for introduction of the syllabus and am particularly pleased that some 614 schools in the free education scheme have applied for grants and signalled that they are providing the new programme this year. As part of the second level support services, an inservice team is providing support for schools to implement the programme, and some €5.1 million has issued in the first phase of grants to schools in January of this year.
In view of the fact that the hands-on investigative approach central to the revised syllabus was seen as vital in encouraging more students to choose science at senior cycle and in third level, and the importance of science, engineering and technology skills to the economy, I announced that the new syllabus would be implemented from September 2003 as had been recommended by the task force on the physical sciences. Various reports have highlighted that Ireland's future economic growth and competitiveness will increasingly depend on the extent to which it can support high value knowledge based industries, supported by the availability of an adequate number of graduates skilled in the fields of maths, physical sciences, biological sciences, technology and engineering.