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Speaking at Prime Minister’s Questions yesterday, David Cameron described the Nuffield Foundation’s comparative study of maths education in 24 different countries as ‘extremely worthwhile’.
His endorsement came in response to a question from Elizabeth Truss MP, who asked what the government is going to do to address the low levels of post-16 participation in mathematics education.
The report, Is the UK an outlier? was published in December 2010 and revealed that fewer than one in five students in England, Wales and Northern Ireland study any kind of maths after GCSE, representing the lowest levels of participation in a comparative study of 24 countries. Levels of participation are higher in Scotland, where just under half of students study maths after S4, but still below the average.
In most of the countries surveyed, more than half of upper secondary students study maths. The Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, Japan, Korea, Russia, Sweden and Taiwan had the highest levels of participation. In these countries, almost all students study mathematics until the age of 18, reflecting the compulsory status of the subject.
Our report does not criticise the standard of maths teaching post-16, but it does reveal that in terms of participation, the UK is out on a limb. The vast majority of young people’s mathematics education ends with GCSE at age 15 or 16, leaving them inadequately prepared for further or higher education; or for employment.”Anthony Tomei, Director of the Nuffield Foundation