This week [in April 2012] has been a busy one in terms of lots of new facts coming out of the offices of my ex-employer the Royal Society.
First there was a major report on the world’s population crisis which raised all kinds of alarm bells, many of which we have heard before and are focused on the Less Developed Countries of the world. My interest is in bits of the report which reinforce what I have been arguing privately for many years and is encapsulated into two simple words: ‘girls’ and ‘education’.
What do I mean?
Well, there are plenty of facts in the report that support the case for investing in the education of girls especially in the Developing Countries. The size of the global investment could be enormous with figures as high as £69 billion per year being mentioned to provide adequate primary and secondary education for the whole world.
More important is the quality of that investment as those of us who have worked in the education policy arena know – it’s the teachers stupid! You could throw a lot of money down the drain and arguably in some cases even damage girls’ (and for that matter boys’) education in these countries if the person teaching them is NOT professionally trained.
UPDATE: I’m working on a project looking at the future of initial teacher training (ITT) in chemistry in England and we will be examining different ITT models in other parts of the developed world – a subsequent project might consider ITT models in the developing world.
The second report on the (lack of) mathematics in Science A-levels was published by SCORE (Science Community Representing Education). It is pleasing to see this report come out together with one by the Nuffield Foundation on the (lack of) mathematics in a range of other subjects.
What is the key message?
That key organisations, including ACME, should continue to collaborate to ensure that mathematics is given its rightful place in a range of different forms at the post16 education table.
UPDATE: See yesterday’s blog about a new English Government reform to post16 ‘core’ maths and the fear many students have of calculus.
There is also a’ girls and education’ issue here. We have known since 2011 the fact that in England and Wales significantly fewer girls than boys have taken a combination of science and mathematics A-levels that includes A-level Mathematics, especially those who take A-level Biology. Things are gradually starting to change with the perceived broader value of having mathematical skills.
UPDATE: A-level Maths numbers have continued to rise, though this year concerns were expressed that the increase came more from boys than girls, as they still outnumber girls and more of them get the higher grades.
In terms of outcomes from both reports?
These will depend on the response to the evidence as it is presented and the political will of those who CAN do something to do something purposeful and NOT just something to please an electorate (Boris and Ken please note!).
UPDATE: Boris Johnson was re-elected Mayor of London and succeeded in acquiring £20m from the English Department of Education to spend directly on London schools, of which £7m has just been allocated in grants to initial projects.
Only then will we see real benefits to girls, all young people and perhaps even the rest of us. Your thoughts?