A recent school leaver makes the case for compulsory mathematics up to age 18by James Snell / March 30, 2016 / Leave a comment
Amid the sound and fury generated by this month’s Budget, one new measure introduced by the Chancellor went by almost without comment—George Osborne’s proposal for the mandatory teaching of maths up to the age of 18.
I recently finished school, am reasonably bright and, in educational terms, have been lucky. But Osborne’s measure means students younger than me will have a certain advantage. Being compelled to study maths for longer, even if they don’t wish to, can only have positive effects on their education, and ultimately their future life chances.
The headline aspect of this policy, and the fundamental idea of compulsion, is not obviously attractive: in this country and in general, policymakers and the public like people to be able to choose what they want to do, especially in education, where generations of students have preferred to play to their strengths. (I certainly did, and so did everyone I know.) But this makes many of us unfortunately narrow our focus: we become excessively specialised.
In my own case, this manifests itself in a considerable bias towards the humanities, and in a corresponding neglect of the natural sciences and maths. (My friends who study the sciences scorn my ignorance on this front. Though this is hypocritical because they know little of the humanities, they are right)….