What Can We Learn From Countries Teaching Math Effectively
Math is a life skill and a few countries have their education system planned around strengthening such life skills. However, in many other countries, children are taught to compete for the highest scores in exams.
Which category do you think our education system falls in?
Before you answer that, let’s have a look at the way math is perceived in our country. Math is used as a tool to get into renowned colleges for professional degrees. The general public is of the opinion that being good at math will ensure a professional degree and this will in turn provide a flourishing career. What’s the point of a degree when the employability percent is low?
Let’s take engineering for example. Every year, approximately 1.5 million students graduate with an engineering degree in India. 20-30% of these students however, do not get employed because they do not possess the basic skills to thrive in an organisation. Among the ones that do get employed, a large fraction start off with very low pay packages.
This cycle goes on with parents and teachers becoming strict disciplinarians and pushing children to do well in math. Forcing and nagging children to perform well will obviously dwindle their interest in math.
If we look at the curriculum in countries like Finland and Singapore, where the quality of education is said to be high, we will understand that math is taught more deeply and creatively. The primary education in Singapore is stripped down when compared to most countries. Fewer topics are covered but in great depth*.
Andreas Schleicher, Head of OECD’s** (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development) Education Assessment Program says, “Math in Singapore is not about knowing everything, It’s about thinking like a mathematician.”
In contrast, Finland’s education system focuses on social development before academics. So primary students spend more time outdoors building interpersonal skills, team spirit etc. and are encouraged to take up what interests them.
Finland and Singapore rank high in education. But how is this possible with the stark difference in their methods?
Singapore’s curriculum was developed by a team of teachers in the 1980s. This team studied behavioral research and travelled to other countries to compare the effectiveness of different teaching methods.
Finland on the other hand invests heavily in the education system. A very small fraction of applicants become teachers and these teachers are trained and upskilled from time to time.
They are committed to improving the quality of education.
At this point, one may argue that a lot of Indian students get into good universities abroad, so the quality of education is not that poor. Yet, a research conducted in 2008 points out that for every ten top performers in the USA there are four in India and for every ten low performers in the USA there are two hundred in India***. Quality education does not mean that only a handful of students get ahead. In fact, Finland invests more in schools that under-perform, to bring them up to par with the rest of the country.
As a takeaway from this article, keep in mind that quality education happens only through continuous research. The purpose of learning math has to change from “getting into an engineering college” to developing a child’s thinking abilities to make them free-thinkers and problem solvers.
This is what we believe in, at Cuemath. With a dedicated team of experts who spend hours on research and create the curriculum, we focus on making the journey of learning math enjoyable for every child by helping them build a growth mindset. Because we believe that, every child can be a “math-child” with support and guidance.
*OECD is an intergovernmental economic organisation with 35 member countries. It was founded in 1960 to stimulate economic progress and trade.
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