Diplomas need A-level maths, say Lib Dems

29th February 2008 at 00:00

It should be mandatory to preserve UK's international competiveness

Maths A-level must become a requirement of many of the new work- related diplomas or Britain's competitiveness will plummet.

Phil Willis, Liberal Democrat chairman of the Innovation, Universities and Skills select committee. made the plea after arguing that we are already falling behind China, South Korea and India in developing maths graduates.

He said most British universities are recruiting substantial numbers from those countries, and the Government is not devoting enough attention to high-achievers in maths.

Mr Willis, a former maths teacher, told the Advisory Committee on Mathematics Education (Acme) annual conference that maths A-level should be a mandatory part of all maths-related diplomas at level 3 for 16- to 18-year-olds.

"Without making mathematics a mandatory part of all level 3 technical diplomas, at the equivalence of A2 level, we will short-change students, universities and ultimately our international competitiveness," he said.

"We are already seeing undergraduates struggle to cope with university level chemistry, physics, computer science and engineering because of their lack of mathematical knowledge.

"The problem will be made significantly worse if students can abandon their maths education at GCSE and yet qualify through technical diplomas to study science-related subjects at university.

"Rather than dumb down our expectations of young people in mathematics, we should raise the bar significantly higher."

Mr Willis added that the Government's tests and targets regime was limiting teachers' freedom to innovate, and damaging pupils' interest in the subject

Professor Adrian Smith, chair of Acme, last month described the maths component of the new diplomas as inadequate, suggesting it would not go beyond GCSE-level in many areas.

The Government has said that all pupils will need to pass a functional maths test to gain any diploma, and a maths course being developed as part of the engineering diploma will be harder than maths A-level.

The Department for Children, Schools and Families said that the diplomas will increase the opportunity pupils have for learning maths, by providing tailor-made modules.

Diplomas will be launched in five subjects in selected schools and colleges in September. By 2013, they will be available in 17 subjects to all students.

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