Tuesday 16 January 2018

Teachers add up to only part of maths problem

The idea that a mass of unqualified teachers is thwarting budding scientists is rubbish, writes Colm O'Rourke

Over the last couple of months there has been a bit of a witchhunt about maths in general and its teaching in particular. The general, lazy consensus was that schools were filled with teachers who did not have the necessary qualifications and as a result students were suffering. To many worried parents it must have seemed like the local plumber had been brought in to teach maths if they believed some of the scary stuff being propagated by one paper. As always it is better to wait for the facts and whatever about anything else the recent survey by the Teaching Council indicates clearly that the problem is not the teachers or at least that it is only a small part of it.

First of all to deal with the qualifications issue. Most schools have a mixture of different degree-holders teaching maths. Some of them have pure maths, others mathematical studies and there are a variety of other maths-type degrees where the teachers are entirely competent in teaching maths at honours Leaving Cert level. Then there are Bachelor of Science degrees, BComms, PE with maths, different types of finance degrees and these graduates have no problem with teaching maths either.

What every school will do is put the teachers with the most suitable maths degrees teaching the honours classes. Others are then slotted in to teach maths at pass level and there is no reason in the world why teachers with maths as part of a degree would not be capable of doing this, especially at Junior Cert level.

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