STUDENT enrolments in environmental and religious studies have increased in this year’s HSC exams, which begin tomorrow for a record 69,261 students – 1330 more than last year.Enrolments in the subject earth and environmental science have increased 10 per cent, to 1405. And economics enrolments have increased from 5491 last year to 6214.The president of the NSW Board of Studies, Tom Alegounarias, said the growth in economics ”is a reflection of an increasing community interest and understanding of economic matters”.”Our enrolments in the sciences are trending upwards, while they are declining around the rest of Australia,” he said.About 44 per cent of all students studied a science subject this year. Biology has increased its enrolments by 18 per cent since 2004 and chemistry is the eighth most studied subject.Studies of religion has boosted its numbers to 13,935 students – 300 more than last year – making it the fifth largest subject.Marianthe Varipatis, 17, of Bethany College in Hurstville, will sit for the studies of religion exam on Thursday. ”Studies of religion is compulsory at my school, but I’m glad I did it because it was very interesting,” she said.”I really liked it because you learn a lot about religions apart from your own. Business studies is something I want to go further in. I want to do business or commerce and law at university.”Business studies will be the first subject to be examined tomorrow morning, with classical Greek. Aboriginal studies, agriculture and electrotechnology will be tested in the afternoon. Exams for about 22 languages including modern Greek, Spanish, Vietnamese, Dutch, Hindi, Maltese, Khmer, Russian, Swedish and Ukrainian will also be held tomorrow.Students will sit for the first English examination on Wednesday and the second on Friday.Marianthe said she was feeling relaxed about the exams. ”I’m not too stressed because it has gone so quickly, and in three weeks’ time it will be over for me.”Mr Alegounarias said that for the first time exam papers would be printed on 13 million pages of recycled paper.Anthony Cleary, the director of religious education and evangelisation for the Catholic Education Office in Sydney, said 60 to 65 per cent of Catholic school students were enrolled in studies of religion, apart from the internal course on Catholicism.Recent criticism of religious studies had inspired curiosity about the subject, he said. “Often kids have a yearning for a greater understanding of the philosophical questions of life. Australia’s multicultural society has led to children studying more than their own religion. There is an interest in the roles of different religions.”This is the first year that students will be examined on the vocational automotive and electrotechnology courses. Of the 668 enrolled in electrotechnology, 38 are girls. There are just three girls among the 238 doing the automotive course.Enrolments in Aboriginal studies are up by 20 per cent to 340 students.