by admin on Wednesday January 25th, 2012
Mathematics Education Post-16: The Debate
There has been much debate about maths education post-16. This all stems from the concern that mathematical and scientific skills are imperative for success in today’s job market and for the success of the UK in the global market. It has been reported in the past how other countries have a much higher uptake of maths after the age of 16 and how the UK lags behind.
There have been proposals to make maths compulsory until the age of 18. The proposal has come from the idea that the Education Secretary Michael Gove describes as the ‘maths gap’, the gap that appears for those who have only studied maths up to GCSE level and then forget these skills, or perhaps never had them, by the time they go to university or start in the workplace. This week there has been a proposal from Professor Steve Sparks, chairman of the Advisory Committee on Mathematics Education, that there should be a maths course that falls between the current GCSE and A-level so that students can still study maths but not have the commitment of another A-level.
This idea of the ‘maths gap’ is in line with what we witness here at Maths Doctor. We often see adult learners wanting or needing to retake their GCSE’s for career progression, needing to brush up on their maths to pass assessment centres when applying for jobs, or realise the benefit of concrete maths knowledge in all aspects of their life. We also see a large number of University students studying topics such as psychology where they need a tutor to help them to understand and carry out statistics and research studies. There does seem to be a gap between the maths you do at school and the maths you need in later life for many people, the question is what will solve this?
There are many arguments against making maths compulsory post-16 and concerns about its execution if it were to happen. Is making maths compulsory going to help or hinder students who have skills and talents in other areas? Will it alienate our children even further from maths if they are already disillusioned by the subject but made to do it? There was an interesting article in The Guardian on Monday titled, How to Learn to Love Maths, it explores the idea of maths being part of our intellectual and cultural heritage and that we should be showing children the beauty of maths so that they want to study maths after GCSE. I think this guy is on to something, unfortunately he doesn’t offer any guidance on how to go about doing this.
We’re not sure what the answer to the debate should be but it will be interesting to see how this develops if it develops at all. The Advisory Committee on Mathematics Education, ACME, are due to publish further proposals in the near future so watch this space.