Learning from our European neighbours and from conferences

Posted: 09/12/2019

In October I was privileged to attend the Casio Pan European Education Conference in Berlin – an event for maths teachers representing 17 countries.

The programme included interesting key-note speakers, informative STEM workshops, and an evening river cruise; however, as with any conference, the best aspect was networking with, and learning from, other teachers. On this occasion, as well as having different experiences and issues to deal with in our teaching, we were from different cultures, which added an extra dimension. Everyone came away inspired by each other and, most importantly, with a renewed passion for what students can achieve through studying STEM courses, and maths in particular.

Here are just a few examples of the insights I gained:

In the UK we are blessed with many STEM enrichment opportunities and employers are really keen to engage with students. This is by no means commonplace across Europe.

In the UK, most maths teachers teach in just one school, by contrast, many Eastern European colleagues have to teach in two or three.

However, one area in which we seem to fall behind our European colleagues is in the uptake of post-16 maths. It really struck me to realise that with only around a quarter of students continuing with maths post-16, the UK is an outlier! In Europe, and many other parts of the world, the academic and vocational courses that post-16 students choose contain compulsory (and additional optional) maths units. Whatever route, STEM, social science, medical, financial, vocational that a student chooses to pursue, the importance of maths and the skills and qualities that studying it develop are highly valued by all involved.

If a UK student hasn’t studied any maths for two years when they start university or an apprenticeship, just think what a disadvantage they will have when competing in a global job market.

I now have a renewed determination to get that message across to as many students, teachers, parents and employers as possible in order to change the situation. If you feel inspired to do the same, take a look at the resources to help you on the AMSP website and also the article on Why it pays to study maths at A level.

There is so much more I learnt from the conference including how European maths teachers make great use of technology and that all exams in Finland are now digital!

If you haven’t yet had the mind-broadening experience of attending a maths teacher conference, why not come along to the MEI Conference 2020.

Rachel Beddoes

Rachel leads MEI’s work on widening participation and employer engagement.

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