Thursday, 7 March 2013

The problem is not the syllabus

The problem is not the syllabus.

In almost 20 years of teaching senior Maths and Physics, I've had plenty of top students go on to unviersity to study Engineering and Medicine, and go on to lead fulfilling, successful careers. Only a handful have decided to become teachers. Each year, I ask the likely candidates why they don't choose teaching, and invariably money is mentioned as the main reason or a significant reason.

Over the last 20 years, I have also noticed a drop in the mathematical ability of my beginning Physics students. The students aren't any less intelligent, so what's happened? We do know there is a huge shortage of maths teachers. In fact, at my school our junior maths classes are currently being taught by PE teachers, English teachers, Home Ec teachers, anyone with a spare in their timetable. These people are all top quality teachers, but not specialists. They can teach the maths, but don't have, nor can enunciate, the broader picture.

We can debate the syllabus all we like, but if students don't have the groundwork for serious Maths and Physics, then all we are doing is bailing out a sinking boat. And if we can't attract the best people to teaching, we're not going to get better results by fiddling with the paperwork.

The problem is not the syllabus.

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