A report from Demos, published today. From Executive Summary:
This report strongly argues that the current model of accountability is profoundly toxic and is failing to achieve its stated goal of improving education. It sets out an alternative
regime, which would allow all children to achieve their potential, while ensuring the quality of education in schools is of a high standard. [...]
An Institute of Education working paper by John Jerrim and Alvaro Choi The mathematics skills of school children: How does England compare to the high performing East Asian jurisdictions? generated a number of responses in the media: The Telegraph (from where the title of this post was borrowed), The Guardian, BBC, The Independent.
A quote from the paper, p. 19:
[A]lthough we maintain that policymakers should focus on the earlier stages of young people’s educational career, some important changes are needed to improve aspects of mathematics provision during secondary school. The most pressing issue is to ensure that the curriculum stretches the best young mathematicians enough, and that they are motivated (and incentivised) to fully develop their already accumulated academic skill. Evidence presented in this paper has suggested that the gap between the highest achieving children in England and the highest achieving children in East Asia widens between ages 10 and 16 (at least in mathematics). This is something that needs to be corrected as highly skilled individuals are likely to be important for the continuing success of certain major British industries (e.g. financial services) and to foster the technological innovation needed for long-run economic growth (Bean and Brown 2005, Toner 2011). One possible explanation for this finding is the widespread use of private tuition by East Asian families for both remedial and enrichment purposes (Ono, 2007; Sohn et al., 2010). This helps to boost the performance of all pupils, including those already performing well at school. In comparison, private tutoring in England is mainly undertaken by a relatively small selection of children from affluent backgrounds, often for remedial purposes. While a large proportion of East Asian families are willing to personally finance such activities through the private sector, the same is unlikely to hold true in the foreseeable future within England. Consequently, the state may need to intervene.
National Curriculum Consultation, KS 1-3, announced today. Closing date: Tuesday 16 April 2013
Published for information only:
From other news:
The Education Secretary has dropped proposals to replace existing exams with new English Baccalaureate Certificates as part of a compromise deal between the Coalition parties, it emerged.
A move to axe competition between exam boards – forcing each body to bid for a “franchise” to run one subject – has also been abandoned amid fears it will fall foul of EU procurement laws.
Curriculum, exam and accountability reform: Michael Gove’s Oral Statement in the Parliament.
Michael Gove’s speech, “The Progressive Betrayal” to the Social Market Foundation – 5th February 2013. Some random quotes related to mathematics:
This approach [...] was called progressive because it moved away from a set hierarchy of knowledge – literary canons, mathematical proofs, scientific laws, musical exercises and artistic traditions towards a new emphasis on “learning to learn”.
The EBacc squeezed out creativity, some claimed. So does that mean scientists from Rutherford to Dawkins are arid and uncreative mechanics? Mathematicians from Pythagoras to Turing are enemies of creativity?
[...] unless you have knowledge – historical, cultural, scientific, mathematic[al] – all you will find on Google is babble.
So our new curriculum affirms – at every point – the critical importance of knowledge acquisition. [...] There is new and detailed content on the mathematical processes every child should master – including early memorisation of tables, written methods of long division and calculations with fractions – which was either absent or obscure before.
From The Telegraph, by Graeme Paton:
[...] on Wednesday Mr Gove will set out a further reform of the qualification – effectively turning the clock back to the 90s before exams were overhauled by Labour.
[...] under the new plan:
• AS-levels will become a standalone qualification with results no longer counting towards final A-level marks;
• Pupils will be able to take new-style AS-levels over one or two years, with qualifications covering exactly half the content of the full version;
• Full A-levels will be completely separate from AS and turned into “linear” qualifications, with all exams sat at the end of the two-year course.
[...] The move is likely to prove controversial among some universities because it will stop them using AS marks to award provisional places on degree courses.
[...] the Russell Group [...] would form a new academic board to advise Ofqual on the content of A-levels.
Read the full article.
By Graeme Paton in The Telegraph:
Long division and multiplication will make a return to maths exams as part of a Government drive to boost standards in primary schools, it will be announced today.
Pupils aged 11 will be given extra marks for employing traditional methods of calculation in end-of-year Sats tests, it emerged.
Children who get the wrong answer but attempt sums using long and short multiplication or adding and subtracting in columns will be rewarded with additional points.
Ministers insisted the changes – being introduced from 2016 – were intended to stop pupils using “clumsy, confusing and time-consuming” methods of working out. [...]
Elizabeth Truss, the Education Minister, will outline the plans in a speech to the North of England Education Conference in Sheffield on Thursday.
Speaking before the address, she said: “Chunking and gridding are tortured techniques but they have become the norm in recent years. Children just end up repeatedly adding or subtracting numbers, and batches of numbers.
“They may give the right answer but they are not quick, efficient methods, nor are they methods children can build on, and apply to more complicated problems.
“Column methods of addition and subtraction, short and long multiplication and division are far simpler, far quicker, far more effective and allow children to understand properly the calculation and therefore move on to more advanced problems.”
Adapted from Warwick Mansell‘s article in The Guardian:
The coalition’s curriculum review, which began in January 2011 and in June 2012 produced draft proposals for English, maths and science in primary schools – the secondary version has yet to appear – has been dogged by
allegations of secrecy. [...]
When it comes to the draft primary maths curriculum, most close observers of the review say that much of the writing was done by the late Richard Dunne [...]