Today the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority have stated their intention to introduce a new ‘Use of Mathematics’ A-Level by September 2011. In response to this, dozens of academics have signed a petition denouncing this new A-level and it seems they are not alone in their objections. Educators for Reform, a research group within the Reform think-tank, have also called for the plans to be scrapped. The group insists that the implementation of the ‘Use of Math’s’ would "cannibalise" the subject by encouraging young people to take the "easier" option and mislead students who want to study math’s at university.
Moreover, the fact that better universities will probably demand a ‘real’ mathematics A-level for courses such as physics, economics, chemistry, computer science and engineering, renders this lightweight qualification redundant. Add this to a subject discipline where only 76% in state schools are subject specialist and you have a Further Education system that is creaking at the seams.
This is merely another example of the Government lowering standards, on the pretext that this will increase subject participation. As one Professor Nick Shepherd-Barron at Cambridge University, said: “As far as the A-level is concerned, creativity has been not just hidden but lost. Instead, mathematics is presented as a mindless exercise in the execution of routines”.
It is suggested that the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority could better direct its efforts into increased participation by making math’s a more interesting, challenging and attractive option for students. Furthermore, if A-Levels are merely a glorified university entrance exam (and they are), then those best qualified establish the direction of further education might be the universities themselves.
You can add your signature here for the petition.