Why are Europe's pupils bad at maths?
Every four years the Timss Study assesses the mathematics skills of grade four pupils around the world. For many years states in the Far East have topped the ranking list, with Russia leading the countries of Europe. Pupils from Germany, Finland and the Netherlands saw a drop in their 2015 scores compared to 2011, according the newly-published study. No one in Europe cares anymore about teaching young people how to do maths, commentators fume.
Focus more on maths and less on social skills!
German pupils' performance in mathematics and science has also deteriorated, according to the Timss Study. They ranked below the OECD and EU averages in the assessment. This is not surprising bearing in mind that schools are focussing on all kinds of other skills but not maths, Die Welt comments:
“They integrate refugees, bend over backwards to include the disabled and devote themselves to topics like avoiding violence, resolving disputes and Internet bullying. In some German states classes are made even more heterogeneous than they already are by putting children of different ages in one group. No doubt such colourful surroundings enhance certain social skills among the girls and boys. Unfortunately, however, education seems increasingly to be falling by the wayside. ... Many politicians responsible for education in Germany stopped caring long ago about fostering excellence in schools. They prefer to advocate the same education for all. But seeing as there is no way all children can achieve the highest standards, German pupils are all brought down to the same level.”
Parents no good as role models
Society cares less about learning than it did in the past, Karjalainen believes:
“Neither the effort on the part of the schools nor excellent teacher training programmes will help if the social climate doesn't change. Unfortunately, however, there's no sign of that. Negative attitudes towards school, learning and authority are gaining ground. It is increasingly difficult to measure the importance of reading and writing because everything can now be done on the Internet. Reading skills are seen as superfluous. Books are no longer read because films, social media and reality TV steal everyone's time. ... Even the ability to do sums, to say nothing of deeper mathematical understanding, is seen as pointless because calculators and mobile phones are always at hand. Schools are in a difficult situation. How are they supposed to convince children that learning is important when many parents no longer believe it?”
Parents should be coached in maths
Parents hold the key to their children getting better results in maths, Aftonbladet argues:
“The parents' background influences what kind of support children get at home. The more confident parents feel on school topics, the more they can help their children. This is particularly true for maths. Schools must not be released from their responsibility to ensure equal opportunities. But at the same time everything possible must be done to achieve better school results. … Why not ask civil society and educational facilities for help? A tip for the minister of education: give educational facilities a few million to invest in brushing up parents' maths skills so they feel competent enough to help their children. Then we might see a real change of trend in the next Timms study.”
Still too little for a leading science nation
Sweden's improved performance in the maths study is still not good enough, writes Göteborgs-Posten:
“Teachers and pupils can naturally be happy that the negative trend in maths that lasted 20 years appears to have at last been broken. But for politics and society there is still a long way to go before we finally have schools that are worthy of a country that claims to be a leading nation in science. If we are a mediocre school nation we can never become a top-ranking industrial and welfare state.”