Boundary Oak School comment on The Times article on Maths in Britain’s schools.

In response to today’s article published in The Times stating ‘Maths crisis puts British at back of class’ Cop-Proprietor and Deputy Head James Polansky and Mathematics Teacher, Sophie Savage offer their opinion:

James Polansky writes I would like to research the exact numbers but last time I checked China only submits data from selected schools into PISA, UK submits all comprehensive and academy data. China’s PISA results do not reflect its results per head of population in all  “complex/deep thinking” mathematical competitions e.g. Olympiad, where Britain outperforms almost all other countries, population adjusted.

If China thinks like scientists why are they acknowledged to have poor results, per head of population, in Nobel Prizes, patents and indeed any research that doesn’t build upon others’ work. Again Britain is at the top of the pile here.
As in any sphere of life any data from China needs to be taken with a large pinch of salt.  Please bear in mind the UK has the most inclusive of all educational systems.

In agreement with the above comment from Mr Polansky, Sophie Savage adds the following excerpt from the Guardian website: “In England we have a very diverse set of communities. Sitting in rows conforming to a one-size-fits-all education, that’s not 21st century Britain.“In England we expect children to enjoy primary education, to feel they are in some sense in the driving seat for their own learning, or at least have a hand on the steering wheel.

“In Shanghai it’s about delivery – it’s a different model. Culturally we are millions of miles apart.

“We’re not better, we’re different.”

And this from BBC, following the programme last year about bringing Shanghai teaching to UK:

“It is, however, abundantly clear to me that Chinese parents, culture and values are the real reasons that Shanghai Province tops the oft-cited Pisa tables rather than superior teaching practice.”

Maths crisis puts British pupils at back of class

The scale of Britain’s school maths crisis was revealed yesterday after a highly critical international analysis labelled standards inadequate and teaching superficial.

A leading authority in world education said that the maths curriculum in Britain was “a mile wide and an inch deep”, leaving pupils with only a shallow grasp of the subject.

Children in the far east were pulling ahead because of superior teaching, which allowed them to develop a deep love and understanding of maths, which they could apply easily to real life.

The analysis by Andreas Schleicher, director for education at the Organi-sation for Economic Co-operation and Development, echoes complaints by business leaders that some school leavers — and even graduates — lack acceptable levels of numeracy.

Schools are competing for maths specialists and the government is offering top graduates bursaries of £25,000 to train as maths teachers.

Experts said last year that there was a shortage of about 5,500 secondary maths teachers and that many schools were using PE teachers or those with only a GCSE in the subject to take lessons. Heads have had to advertise some maths posts multiple times.

Mr Schleicher said that countries such as China taught pupils to “think like scientists” whereas the British curriculum was a “mile wide and an inch deep”. It was superficial, over- loaded and too concerned with financial education, he said.

The OECD official addressed the Global Education and Skills Forum in Dubai yesterday about approaches to teaching across the western world.

“There is a lot of emphasis on the memorisation of a relatively shallow knowledge [in England], where students have much less exposure to the deep underpinning concepts,” he said.

“Chinese students can think like scientists; they may not know the scientific facts and figures but they know, in mathematics for example, what is risk, what is probability, what is the mathematical relationship, and because they have understood that, they can apply and use the knowledge. The teachers also make sure the students do not only accumulate content knowledge, but that they really understand the subjects.”

He added: “The typical problems that students encounter in maths in Eng- land is relatively simple mathematics, embedded in a . . . complex context.”

Britain came 26th in the most recent global rankings in maths, out of 65 countries — behind Poland, Estonia and Vietnam. Nicky Morgan, the education secretary, has flown in teachers from Shanghai to work with British schools to raise standards.

The Pisa tests, last taken by 15-year-olds in 2012, rated a fifth of Britain’s teenagers as low-performing, against 3.8 per cent of those in Shanghai. Nearly 12 per cent of UK entrants were deemed high performing, compared with 55.4 per cent of those in Shanghai.

Neil Carberry, director of employment and skills at the CBI, who also spoke at the Dubai conference, said that many companies invested in remedial training for recruits. “Maths matters to businesses, who want to see schools given the time to develop deep understanding and confidence in core subjects,” he said. “The system in Eng-land encourages teaching to the test, and only a fundamental review of the 14-18 curriculum can address this.”

A spokeswoman for the Department for Education said: “The quality of maths teaching is improving drama- tically in this country because we have reformed the curriculum, bringing maths teaching into line with international standards, ensuring young people can compete with the best in the world regardless of their background.”

Reference The Times Education http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/education/article4712635.ece

Boundary Oak School Maths

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