April 25, 2007

Pathetic Western Education

Another good article I'm stealing from IZ. The following geometry diagram comes from a British exam for college freshmen:

Now, compare that problem with the following problem, from a Chinese college entrance exam:

That's right, the Chinese test is for kids trying to get into a university, the first is for dunces who are already in their university.

BBC, where this article first appeared, says: "A glance at the two questions reveals how much more advanced is the maths teaching in China, where children learn the subject up to the age of 18, the society says.

"It has sounded a warning about Britain's future economic prospects which it claims are threatened by competition from scientists in China."

Gee, ya think? Tom Friedman says the world is flat. No, the world is tilting to the east, to Asia, and at an accelerating pace. The west is quickly becoming a has-been (read my previous post) as educational curricula - especially in the sciences and mathematics - become watered down for students who wouldn't make the grade otherwise. (See below.)

And you know things must be really bad in Britain when the Royal Society of Chemistry has to offer a £500 prize to see if anyone can solve the above Chinese problem.


So, how pathetic is education in the West? The BBC also reported that British schools are encouraging students not to take A-level mathematics courses: "...as maths was a difficult subject, schools feared examination failures which would threaten their standings.


"'Schools and students are reluctant to consider A-level mathematics to age 18, because the subject is regarded as difficult, and with league tables and university entrance governed by A-level points, easier subjects are taken.'


"'Increasingly, universities are having to mount remedial sessions for incoming science undergraduates because their maths skills are so limited, with many having stopped formal lessons in mathematics two years earlier at the GCSE level.'"


"Since 2002, there has been a 15% fall in the numbers taking maths at A-level in England, while those taking physics fell 14% and computer sciences 47%."

At least some people in the UK recognize that the problem needs to be solved, although some of the suggestions are mixed. On a positive note:

"'We are changing the curriculum, creating a new entitlement to give more pupils the chance to study separate physics, chemistry and biology GCSEs and piloting 250 science clubs for 11 to 14-year-olds.'

"Some £30m was being spent over the next two years on recruiting 3,000 extra science teachers and encouraging more students to study sciences..."

However, a third BBC article states that a report by the Council for Industry and Higher Education recommends that "A-level students should be paid for passing exams in science and maths... ...a payment of about £500 might be enough to encourage students to stick with Stem [Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics] subjects."


Steven Carr said...

Where are the squares in this square prism?

Why is ‘E’ named, when none of the answers involve E and knowing that the point of intersection is named ‘E’ adds no information?

If ABCD are in a plane, how can BD be perpendicular to A1C which meets that plane at an angle of less than 90 degrees?

That is like claiming that the side of a tent is perpendicular to the ground....

The thing is a hoax.

Ann said...

Assalaamu alaikum,

I saw this in the BBC... I was in high school (American suburban high schools, in supposedly good school districts) about 30 years ago, and the math and science classes were really poor. I liked Math but never had to take advanced courses, so I wouldn't know where to start with even the easy question.

I absolutely hated science, because the teachers were so bad and it was so boring... Now I'm learning Science along with my children, and it's so much better the way they teach it now. They love it, and I find it very interesting.

There should be lessons to learn from places like Singapore or China.