Plan to force HSC students to study maths
Children will be forced to study maths from day one of Kindergarten until the end of year 12 under a major curriculum shake-up.
The move will bring NSW into line with academic powerhouses of Finland, South Korea and Singapore but experts warn attracting extra maths teachers to the profession will be challenging.
The requirement for HSC students to study maths or a science was dropped in 2001 and since then the number of people studying the subject has dropped by a quarter.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the move would prepare children for the jobs of the future.
"We promised to take the curriculum back to the basics and today we are taking the
first steps to deliver on that commitment by prioritising maths," she said.
"My vision is for every child in NSW to have the necessary maths skills to succeed in
life, whether that's managing home budgets or preparing them for the jobs of the future
in science, technology and engineering."
The decision to make the subject compulsory comes two days after the release of the largest curriculum review in thirty years although it did not call for mandated maths teaching in every grade.
A report by the NSW auditor general earlier this year found one in five teachers in the state's high schools have been teaching on subjects they have no expert knowledge in because of critical staff shortages in basic disciplines including maths and science.
Mathematical Association of NSW President Karen McDaid said it would be difficult to recruit enough maths teachers to teach the more complicated year 11 and 12 courses.
"That is the biggest issue is finding the number of teachers," she said.
She said currently physical education teachers were covering maths classes in junior secondary years but said they did not have the training to teach higher level maths.
"It is a different kettle of fish when you ask them to go up into the senior years and there is a high stakes examination," she said.
"It is going to be a really problematic situation."
University of Sydney senior lecturer Rachel Wilson said it was commendable that the government was beefing up maths in the NSW curriculum but said there needed to be long term planning around how maths was delivered.
"Up until now we have looked rather peculiar because we don't require maths," she said.
"We have had several initiatives now trying to address the maths and science issues in our education system, and they haven't provided great returns."
She said Programme for International Student Assessment's mathematics outcomes in education are the best predictor of economic competitiveness.
She said the requirement for HSC maths for primary school teaching degrees was dropped in 2014.
"That has eaten into our statewide capacity to deliver maths really effectively," she said.
Education Minister Sarah Mitchell said today's announcement would provide NSW students with the academic foundations and critical thinking to thrive in a competitive, globalised workforce.
"Whether you are a carpenter or a software engineer, maths is a companion for life,
we want to make sure that the new curriculum provides a level of maths concepts that
will help every NSW student succeed in life after school," she said.