Business must do more than sums;Leading Article;Opinion

19th February 1999 at 00:00
Employers have exhorted governments for more than 20 years to broaden sixth-form studies and equip school-leavers with skills relevant to the world of work. Captains of industry have had an unprecedented influence, serving on curriculum bodies and acting as close advisers to ministers.

Isn't it therefore time for them to put their money where their mouths are? Instead of taking advantage of the changes, they plump for the same old specialist, preferably with A-level maths. The London School of Economics research (pages 1 and 31) speaks volumes for maths - the lifelong pay-off the subject brings offers a persuasive argument for teachers seeking to sell it to students.

Maybe A-level maths, even at the standard of a scraped pass, does provide important problem-solving skills as researchers suggest. But placing so much reliance on it when recruiting for jobs undermines efforts to broaden studies. Young pupils will be the first to realise that all the talk of breadth and key skills for work is no more than empty words.

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