Sunday, June 23, 2024
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British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has announced plans to require all students in the United Kingdom to study math in some form until the age of 18. In his first speech of 2023, Sunak stated: “We’re one of the few countries not to require our children to study some form of maths up to the age of 18. Right now, just half of all 16-19-year-olds study any maths at all… 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. So we need to go further.”

The prime minister plans to make numeracy a central objective of the education system, but noted that this does not necessarily mean mandatory A-levels in math for all students. Instead, the government will explore expanding existing qualifications and introducing “more innovative options,” according to a Downing Street spokesperson. It is not yet clear how these plans will affect students who wish to study humanities or creative arts, such as BTecs.

However, the government has acknowledged that it will not be able to implement these changes before the next general election. Sunak is expected to begin working on the plan in this parliament, though the specifics have yet to be determined.

The Association of School and College Leaders has pointed out the “chronic national shortage of math teachers” in the UK, while Labour’s shadow education secretary, Bridget Phillipson, has called on Sunak to explain how he plans to fund this increase in math education. Liberal Democrat education spokesperson Munira Wilson called the proposal “an admission of failure from the prime minister on behalf of a Conservative government that has neglected our children’s education so badly.” Tory MP Robin Walker, chair of the education committee, urged Sunak to focus on early childhood education instead.

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