What have we Achieved?

We have a spat between our tertiary engineering schools and our secondary schools/NZQA. It’s time to bang some heads together.

Unfortunately, it’s true. I respect NCEA, but its structure does not support student achievement in algebra, and hence calculus, and recent revisions to NCEA standards have reduced the examinable content in these core topics. It’s a real concern because New Zealand desperately needs more science, technology and engineering.

On the other hand, the engineering schools should raise the bar if students attaining “Achieved” grades are under-prepared. The bar should never have been lowered in the first place! Every NCEA student wanting to continue with their studies should be aiming for “Merit” or higher.

But wait a minute. Secondary students are under-prepared for their studies too! PISA 2012 results are out and New Zealand’s rankings have plummeted (and not just in mathematics). It all starts at primary school…

New Zealand mathematics education is in trouble.

We need to turn things on their heads if we want to prepare school students adequately for tertiary study. The impetus must come from the top. University lecturers should influence what is taught in secondary schools, secondary school teachers should influence what is taught in primary schools. There needs to be a division of responsibility in designing a school mathematics curriculum. The mathematicians should determine the content, the educationists should determine how to deliver that content and ensure that teachers deliver it effectively.

This is my idea for a brighter future for maths education in New Zealand.

Dr Audrey Tan, Mathmo Consulting
December 2013