How I caught the UK government not doing their homework

Sometimes things are so silly you just can’t make them up.

The UK government is trying to bring in a policy to force all students to study maths until the age of 18.

In a hurried attempt to back up this policy, they reached out to a number of people who use maths in unusual ways, including me.

I agreed to share my views on why maths is important and the Prime Minister’s office planned to include me as a case study to defend their policy.

The only slight problems with this plan were…

  1. I don’t agree with the policy.
  2. I only studied maths until the age of 16.
  3. They couldn’t find anyone else to do it, so they had to scrap the whole campaign.

The Times newspaper asked me to write a piece explaining my point of view. This is what I wrote….

My opinion piece in The Times

Last Friday, I was approached by the prime minister’s office to become a maths champion because today our government is launching a policy obliging all students to study maths until the age of 18. I’m a film data analyst who helps film-makers and film professionals navigate the complex landscape of the film industry and I only studied maths to the age of 16.

I know what you’re thinking — something doesn’t add up here. Somebody didn’t do their homework. And nobody thought to ask me whether I support this policy.

I’m delighted to have this platform to share my views because I think their one-size-fits-all policy is misguided, tone deaf to the actual needs of students and may even be counterproductive.

My work involves analysing the financial performance of films, studying industry trends and identifying which factors contribute to success.

Curiosity and my passion for film led me to self-educate and apply mathematical concepts throughout my career, using the abundance of free resources accessible on the internet. When I was that curious 16-year-old, I was assured that calculators would always be a highly coveted scarce resource. But nowadays we can all access staggeringly smart AI models with whom we can chat about mathematical concepts.

While the importance of numeracy skills cannot be overstated, it is just as essential to acknowledge the many other skills and qualities that students need to thrive. Financial literacy, emotional intelligence, compassion and the ability to build healthy relationships are just a few areas where our current education system falls short. To prioritise maths over these skills is short-sighted, out of touch and grossly unfair on students.

Forcing students to study maths until the age of 18 risks stifling the passions and interests of individual students, the very qualities that education should be cultivating. Instead of imposing a blanket requirement that many will resent, schools should focus on helping students discover who they are and then provide the necessary support and resources for them to become the best version of that person. This approach would be far more effective than imposing an outdated notion that “more maths equals good” across the board.

This hurried, last-minute search for individuals who use maths in their everyday jobs to justify new policy tells us a lot. Instead of rushing to finish their homework just before the deadline, the policy makers at No 10 should apply themselves to understanding the diverse educational needs of students and to researching and developing strategies that encourage individual growth and empower our young people to reach their full potential.

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