From the archive - 'Soft options' in training: maths too low

18th February 2011 at 00:00
16 October 1959: Education depends on high standards for trainee teachers, says chief education officer

Teachers in training today have too many 'soft options', reflected Mr AM Baird, the new chief education officer for Surrey, when he examined some of the problems and opportunities in education at the 59th Surrey Educational Conference at Nonsuch County School for Girls, Cheam, on Saturday.

From primary education to further education, Mr Baird continued, everything depends on teacher training. High attainment, hard work and a severe (qualifications) certificate were essential, yet, until recently, academic standards in maths had been too low.

A recent training college survey had unearthed disturbing weaknesses in maths and many lecturers complained that failures in physics and engineering were due to low standards in the subject. For their own professional credit, teachers should tackle this problem. They should make mathematics exciting - especially in the primary school. And they should consider whether mechanical aids would help or hinder them.

If coercion was necessary to ensure the study of mathematics to a minimum professional level - and he saw no reason why girls should not be as good as boys at this subject - then it must come from the students themselves. Low standards did the profession harm. Higher standards of professional competence were essential. Perhaps Sir Ronald Gould of the NUT was right when he declared that a 3 per cent failure rate in the colleges was too low.

However fond we were of small colleges, went on Mr Baird, bigger ones linked with the universities were essential if we were to have a unified teaching profession of graduate status. He disliked intensely the description of colleges as 'training' establishments and he urged the importance to teachers in colleges of university standards of selection, teaching methods, status, behaviour, and freedom from petty domestic chores, duties and restrictions still expected in many colleges.

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