rishi sunak

Sums with Sunak: is mandatory maths truly the way forward?

3 mins read

Our illustrious leader Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has taken the decision to make studying maths (in some form or another) compulsory for all school pupils in England up to the age of 18, in order to improve the UK’s education systems. As an English student with quite a lot of opinions and unfettered access to a laptop, I feel compelled to comment.

This decision to prioritise mathematics reminds me of the days and the end of the school year when pupils across Scotland chose the subjects they would study for their exams. However, a cursory glance at the options we were permitted made it abundantly clear that there was, in fact, little choice in the matter. Maths, the sciences and sports were strongly favoured, while the humanities and arts were grossly neglected.

I am moved to wonder why it is maths that has been chosen above all else. Perhaps it’s a reflection of Rishi Sunak’s own background as an investment banker. However, it’s possible that something deeper is at play. This decision, like the options for my school timetable, show the priorities of our education system all too clearly. Memorising knowledge and churning out good exam results were placed above all else, and the subjects school favoured reflected that. We even rank the quality of schools based on the number of students who achieve high exam results.

Is it possible, then, that skills such as maths are prioritised as part of a UK-wide obsession with measurable achievement?

I take absolutely no issue with maths as a subject. It offers ample opportunity to improve analytical skills, logical thought and problem solving skills, all of which are invaluable. However, it is important to spare a thought to those who understand the world in a different way. 

Mandatory mathematics makes it abundantly clear that the skills other subjects can provide are often ignored. Studying literature can improve critical thinking, spelling and grammar. The arts foster creativity and allow people to express themselves. The study of history, geography and politics broaden our horizons and deepen our understanding of the world we live in, how it functions, and how to find our place in it. They give us the power to become more well-rounded individuals with far stronger, clearer voices.

Alas, this is discarded in favour of long division.
The time has come to offer more to creativity, self-expression, and critical thinking. Literature, music, humanities and art must be considered as vitally important as mathematics. How else will a generation of British young people reach their full potential, and express their unique views? In the words of Kurt Vonnegut, ‘to practise any art, no matter how well or how badly, is a way to make your soul grow.’

Featured Image Credit: Yahoo! Finance

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