Maths and languages

Originally uploaded by Robert Scarth

There was an article in a recent issue of The Economist arguing that it’s better to do maths or languages at high school rather than more specialised subjects such as economics:

Few economics faculties demand that applicants produce an economics A-level, and most pupils who study the subject at school do not pursue it further. Second, the curve-shifting brand of economics taught in schools is qualitatively different from the complex modelling required at university. Economics is not like foreign languages (also, and more regrettably, in decline in secondary schools): there is no particular reason to learn it young, when time could perhaps be better spent acquiring general mathematical skills.

I couldn’t agree more. When I started studying computer science at university, my problem was not that I hadn’t done computing at high school but that I hadn’t done enough maths. Similarly, biology (at least in Aarhus) often turns down applicants who’s specialised in biology in high school rather than the more fundamental skills of chemistry etc.

I tend to think there is too much choice in secondary schools these days. It’d be much better teaching all students copious amounts of maths, chemistry, grammar, modern languages (to a fluent level!), history and other fundamental disciplines.

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