It’s no secret that maths is one (if not the most) polarising subject for students. Some students love it and go on to study maths further at A-level and university. However, I think an overwhelming majority find maths all a bit daunting and somewhat useless (myself included), not to mention math anxiety too.
Rishi Sunak’s big idea
When Rishi Sunak, our current Prime Minister, finally came out of hiding to deliver his big speech on Wednesday, one particular educational aim struck a nerve in a plethora of past and present students all across the UK. Sunak stated that he wanted people to “feel confident” with finances and things like mortgage deals. He also went on to say that “in a world where data is everywhere and statistics underpin every job, letting our children out into that world without those skills is letting our children down.” That is all good and well, but from my own experience maths after a certain level will be utterly unnecessary in a number of jobs.
For example, I plan to go to university to study English later this year. A subject which is ironically rumoured to be eventually ‘phased out’ as it doesn’t maximise earning potential. I don’t think English, or many other jobs won’t need any maths at all, but I believe we really only need basic numeracy to succeed. Even some of the things we learn at GCSE can seem a bit pointless, such as Pythagoras’ theorem, once a brightly highlighted revision card during my GCSEs, which I haven’t looked at since.
Some past students have even joked online about how ‘it’s been another day not needing to use a2+b2=c2’. These are posts which have garnered thousand of likes on platforms such as TikTok. However, this only really applies to people like me who won’t need to know this to do non-STEM related jobs.
So, what are the pros of this plan?
Perhaps the cons are outweighed by Sunak’s statement on wanting to help young people feel more confident about finances. It is becoming increasingly obvious that many young people are not learning the right skills to tackle essential things like paying taxes. We enter the adult world not being taught about taxes, mortgages, loans… and then expected to deal with it all ourselves. I had to embarrassingly ask my parents about taxes, and to be honest, they didn’t explain things all that well
If the extended teaching of maths that Rishi Sunak speaks of is more heavily centred on real issues, then I would be a lot more accepting. Despite this, In my opinion, I think the Prime Minister is ardently set on making A-level maths compulsory, although this hasn’t been said. As we know it, maths at this level is more complex than necessary for the average student. Moreover, the site educationquizzes.com conducted a survey that ended on 18th January 2020, that concluded maths was whichthe least favourite school subject—no surprise there.
Conclusion: what this means for you
Bottom line – if you’re currently under 18 and won’t be for the next couple of years, this will apply to you. The news was only announced recently so keep an eye on any updates. It has been said that nothing will be implemented before the next general election (2025), but that doesn’t mean there won’t be any changes before then. By any means, more education is not an inherently bad thing, but in this case it would be an annoying amount of baggage that gets in the way of students pursuing A-levels more catered to their own career aspirations.
Data from gov.uk stated that in 2021 there were 45,000 science teachers in state secondary schools in England, but a lesser 35,771 maths teachers, demonstrating the need for more people with degrees in maths, so it is argued that these plans may not even come into force, with no capacity to teach them.
Sadly, I can’t help but feel like the Prime Minister’s plans seem to focus on everything but what students truly want, which is the ability to choose. One way we can make a stance against this is to band together and let our voices be heard! Start those petitions, start those debates, and never be afraid to express your opinion; no matter what you think, it will always be more important to hear from real, current students than the leaders of this country who left ‘elite’ schooling decades ago.