Just don't call it maths

Posted in: Comment, News and Updates

I see that the Prime Minister wants everyone to study maths up to 18.  A lot of countries already require this, particularly where there is a baccalaureate system in place.  The rationale seems to be that this would be boost for the competitiveness of the economy and an expansion of the country's skill base, and there is obviously something in that; after all, could you ever be said to be too numerate?  Another rationale is that being more numerate means a better understanding of the world around you and how you interact with it (think probability and statistics).  Then there's the satisfaction of knowing interesting stuff and being able to play with ideas.  Such aims are not mutually inconsistent.

So there is a case for "maths up to 18" but let's not call it maths, or "double maths" as some in opposition parties have instantly and wearyingly dubbed it; such stupidity.  Although maths is the most popular A level (even if "popular" might not be the best word here), what we need is something quite different from a qualification whose role is to sift out those who can't benefit from a higher mathematical education.

So let's make it enjoyable as possible and useful instead.  Base it on issues that students face which will make sense to them.  And let's keep it away from OfSwot, or whatever it's called these days, as this should not be examined in any conventional sense.

But what was interesting in all this was to hear a prime minister make a direct curriculum intervention in this way.  I'm not sure I can remember this happening before, unless you count the Great Debate in the late 1970s which was more of a curriculum condemnation than exploration.

Maybe we should encourage it.  Environmental education to 18, maybe.

Posted in: Comment, News and Updates


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