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Short-changed in life skills

If the CBI thinks, as reported this week, that competing with low labour costs in China and India needs employees who can write fluently, spell correctly and work out basic calculations in their heads, it is living in the past.

What everyone must now be able to do is to communicate orally and, using a keyboard, by computer. Of course, being able to understand those attempting to communicate with you is equally, if not more, important.

Numeracy should not mean being able to check your change. It should mean being able to put a calculation into a form which can be entered into a calculator or a computer, and to recognise whether or not the answer obtained is reasonable. These are the essential life skills which are the very basics, and which should be acquired by everyone at primary school.

At secondary school, they must be developed by pupils learning to speak and produce written material which will maximise the understanding of whoever they are communicating with. In mathematics, they must be able to check the accuracy of answers obtained and to use mathematical ideas to formulate predictions.

Stewart Fowlie

Granton Road

Edinburgh

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