Crunch inspires economics boom

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The Independent Online

More teenagers are opting to take maths and economics at A-level – thus equipping themselves to cope with the recession.

Figures released by the exam boards yesterday showed rises in the number of candidates sitting both maths and further maths (up 7,882 and 1,382 respectively). Take-up of economics rose by 2,247.

Mike Cresswell, director-general of the Assessment and Qualifications Alliance exam board, commented: "The dreaded word 'credit crunch' comes to mind."

Further rises in the take-up of these subjects at AS-level – traditionally taken at the end of the first year of the sixth form – indicate that the trend seems likely to continue.

Take-up of science subjects also improved, with a 4.77 per cent increase in physics – prompting the Schools minister, Iain Wright, to say that the results "explode the myth that so-called 'traditional' subjects are in decline".

"The world economy of the future will depend upon the application of science and mathematics," he said. "That is why the significant increase in the take-up and attainment of these vital subjects for the future of the British economy should be a cause for celebration."

However, the take-up of languages plummeted to a new low, with a 7.7 per cent fall in the number of those sitting German, to 5,765, and a 3.7 per cent drop in French to 14,333.

Information technology take-up also dropped by 2.7 per cent to 11,948.

The Liberal Democrats' universities spokesman, Stephen Williams, described the continuing decline in information technology and modern languages as "very worrying".

He said: "We desperately need more youngsters to take these subjects if the UK is to remain competitive."

The drop in languages was offset by a rise in Spanish, of 4 per cent, and community languages such as Mandarin, up 7.5 per cent to 7,932. In all, 16 community languages are offered at A-level, with the biggest rises shown by Chinese (319 sitting the exam), Portuguese (83) and Polish (also 83). Other languages studied this year included Gujarati, Dutch, Bengali and Urdu.

English and maths remained the two most popular subjects overall. Teenagers' 10 favourite subjects showed little change. General studies dropped from fourth to fifth place to be replaced by psychology.

7.5%

The rise in the number of students taking Mandarin at A-level.

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