By Graeme Paton, Education Editor
He insisted that fundamental reform of maths education was needed to ensure the youngest pupils have a firm grasp of the subject by the time they start secondary school.
Mr Gove also signalled an overhaul of classes for those in secondary education, with calculus and statistics playing a more fundamental role.
In a further development, he suggested all sixth-formers should continue studying the subject in some form up to the age of 18 within the decade amid concerns that half the adult population currently lack “basic maths skills”.
The comments come amid fears that standards in English schools have “stagnated” while those in countries such as China, Singapore, Japan and Korea pull ahead.
It follows the publication of a major international league table showing that British teenagers are now ranked lower than peers most other developed nations for maths. At the age of 15, pupils in China are around two whole academic years ahead of British counterparts.
In a speech to the Royal Society on Wednesday, Mr Gove said: “If we are to keep pace with out competitors, we need fundamental, radical reform in the curriculum, in teaching, and in the way we use technology in the classroom. Unless we dramatically improve our performance, the grim arithmetic of globalisation will leave us all poorer.”
Currently, maths is a compulsory subject between five and 16 but it is claimed that the demands put on children of all ages falls well below those elsewhere in the world.
Mr Gove said a review of the National Curriculum in England – currently being carried out by an expert panel – would lead to a renewed focus on the basic knowledge pupils should master at each key stage of their education.
Schools in East Asia place a “much greater focus on fundamental number concepts, fractions and the building blocks of algebra”, Mr Gove said.
“It may be, therefore, that we will adopt the same approach and have much more emphasis on pre-algebra in primary and remove data handling and some other subjects from the primary curriculum,” he said.
Mr Gove said schools should also “bear in mind” a system used in Shanghai where pupils have daily maths lessons and regular tests to “make sure that all children are learning the basics”.
A Whitehall source said there was an aspiration to repeat the same system in England, although it would not be compulsory. Labour introduced the “numeracy hour” – daily maths lessons for primary pupils – but this was scrapped two years ago, with claims it has since led to a decline in the subject in some schools.
Mr Gove also suggested that lessons in secondary schools had to be toughened-up and pupils should study the subject for longer to boost skill levels among the adult population. Currently, just 13 per cent of pupils study maths at A-level.
“That is why I think we should set a new goal for the education system so that within a decade the vast majority of pupils are studying maths right through to the age of 18,” he said.
- Michael Gove to set new GCSE targets for schools (telegraph.co.uk)
- Gove ‘to raise GCSE passes target’ (mirror.co.uk)
- Michael Gove – a PR gaffe unfolding? [Alan Stevens] (ecademy.com)
- Examination system ‘discredited’, says Michael Gove (telegraph.co.uk)
- You: Schools told to raise the bar on GCSE exam results (guardian.co.uk)
- Michael Gove: ‘I want teachers to have secure futures’ (telegraph.co.uk)
- Gove: poor primary schools ‘to be converted into academies’ (telegraph.co.uk)
- ‘Worst’ primary schools to become academies (independent.co.uk)
- ‘Worst’ schools to become academies (mirror.co.uk)
- Trainee teacher exam resits limited (mirror.co.uk)