England has one of the lowest levels of post-16 mathematics engagement among developed countries, according to international comparisons. This is despite the fact that mathematics qualifications such as A-level maths are linked to higher salaries, as reported in new research.
In 2011 the Secretary of State for Education called for the ‘vast majority’ of young people to be studying mathematics up to 18 by the end of the decade. This ambition was reiterated by the Chancellor in his March 2016 budget.
A new report from the School of Education at The University of Nottingham, has found that 80 per cent of 17-year-olds disagree with the idea of making maths compulsory post-16.
The study, Rethinking the value of Advanced Mathematics Participation (REVAMP), set out to investigate the value of A-level mathematics from several viewpoints. The study was funded by the Nuffield Foundation.
Experts looked at four different strands of analysis within the project — the economic returns to A-level maths, the changing participation in A-level maths from 2005-13, the relationship between A-level maths and degree outcomes, and a national survey of 10,000 17-year-olds.
The study was carried out by Professor Andrew Noyes and Dr Michael Atkins. Professor Noyes, said: “The findings of our research do raise a number of concerns that will need to be addressed if the Government wants to get the ‘vast majority’ of young people continuing their study of mathematics to 18. One clear way to encourage take-up is to communicate to young people that there are economic benefits in choosing maths as a subject.
“There are also the additional challenges of the current qualifications and assessment reform processes. As our figures show, if mathematics was made compulsory post-16, this could act as a deterrent to young people choosing the subject as an A-level rather than encourage take-up.”
The study shows that there is compelling evidence of a continued wage return of up to 11 per cent to those who have studied A-level maths.
“Unfortunately, the economic benefits of studying maths are overshadowed by the differences between men and women and according to where they live. These are figures that need addressing,” adds Professor Noyes.
A full copy of the report can be found here: https://www.nottingham.ac.uk/research/groups/crme/projects/revamp.aspx
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