Students opt for maths and economics

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The Independent Online

Britain's teenagers are opting for maths and economics qualifications - thus equipping themselves to cope with the recession.

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

Further maths and economics were responsible for the biggest percentage rises (15.2 per cent and 13.2 per cent) once Irish, taken by a minority of pupils mainly in Northern Ireland, is exclude.

Mike Cresswell, director general of the Assessment and Qualifications Alliance exam board, said of the rise; “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 the trend will continue.

Take-up of science subjects also improved with a 4.77 per cent increase in physics - prompting Schools Minister Iain Wright to say 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 added. “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 decrease in the take-up of German to 5,765 and 3.7 per cent drop in French to 14,333.

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

Stephen Williams, the Liberal Democrats’ universities spokesman, said: “The continuing decline in information Technology and modern languages is very worrying.

“We desperately need more youngsters to take these subjects if the UK is to remain competitive - particularly in the current economic climate.”

The drop in languages was marginally offset by a rise in Spanish of four per cent and community languages such as Mandarin (up 7.5 per cent to 7,932). In all, 16 different community languages are offered at A-level with the biggest rises shown by Chinese(319), Portuguese (83) and Polish (also 83).

English and maths remained the two most popular subjects overall. The top ten favourite subjects showed little change. General studies, though, dropped from fourth to fifth place to be replaced by psychology - which has seen a constant rise in recent years in the wake of popular TV programmes such as Cracker and Wire In The Blood.