Education minister Elizabeth Truss to travel to Shanghai to find out secrets behind maths success

Ms Truss suggests UK's productivity and growth is hampered by poor maths skills

The UK will suffer economic decline if attitudes towards maths do not change, according to Elizabeth Truss.

The education minister suggested that the nation's productivity and growth is being put under threat by poor maths skills.

Ms Truss's comments come the week before she is due to lead a trip to Shanghai, China, to find out why their results in the subject are so high.

Recent international tests put China, along with a number of other Asian nations , at the top for maths skills.

“Shanghai is the top-performing part of the world for maths - their children are streets ahead,” Ms Truss said.

“Shanghai and Singapore have teaching practices and a positive philosophy that make the difference. They have a belief that diligence redeems lack of ability.

“Our new curriculum has borrowed from theirs because we know it works - early learning of key arithmetic, and a focus on times tables and long division, for instance.”

She added that students in Shanghai have a “can-do attitude to maths, which contrasts with the long-term anti-maths culture that exists here”.

“The reality is that unless we change our philosophy, and get better at maths, we will suffer economic decline,” Ms Truss said.

“At the moment our performance in maths is weakening our skills base and threatening our productivity and growth. I am determined to change this.”

The minister, who will be joined by a number of headteachers on the China trip, is due to visit three schools and teacher training centres during her visit, the Department for Education (DfE) said.

The department said that the visit was the latest step in a drive to raise maths standards, and will look at what has made areas of the Far East among the best in the world at teaching the subject.

More than half a million 15-year-olds took part in the 2012 Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa) study, with the findings published by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in December.

Overall, the UK came 26th in maths with an average score of 494. This was broadly the same as the average for the subject, and on a par with nations such as the Czech Republic, France,and Norway.

But it also leaves the UK lagging far behind leading nations including Shanghai, Singapore, Hong Kong, South Korea and Japan.

A new analysis of the data, published yesterday, found that the children of cleaners in Shanghai and Singapore outperform the sons and daughters of UK doctors and lawyers in global maths tests.

In the UK, the children of parents with a “professional” job - such as doctor or lawyer - scored 525.94 points on average in the PISA maths test.

In Shanghai, China, the sons and daughters of parents with “elementary” occupations - such as cleaners and catering assistants - scored 568.9 points on average. In Singapore, this group scored 533.58 points.

A separate survey by the business group CBI, published last year, concluded that around three in 10 employers are dissatisfied with the standard of school and college leaver's numeracy skills.

The DfE said that the government was prioritising maths because of the subject's importance to young people competing for jobs, as well as its importance to the economy.

A number of reforms are already being introduced, such as banning calculators from tests for 11-year-olds, requiring teenagers who do not get a grade C at GCSE in maths to continue studying the subject, new maths qualifications for post-16 students and bursaries to attract top maths graduates into teaching.

PA

News
exclusivePunk icon Viv Albertine on Sid Vicious, complacent white men, and why free love led to rape
News
A 1930 image of the Karl Albrecht Spiritousen and Lebensmittel shop, Essen. The shop was opened by Karl and Theo Albrecht’s mother; the brothers later founded Aldi
people
Arts and Entertainment
booksThe best children's books for this summer
Sport
Colombia's James Rodriguez celebrates one of his goals during the FIFA World Cup 2014 round of 16 match between Colombia and Uruguay at the Estadio do Maracana in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
sportColombian World Cup star completes £63m move to Spain
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
news
News
i100
News
people
Sport
Antoine Griezmann has started two of France’s four games so far
sport
Life and Style
techYahoo Japan launches service to delete your files and email your relatives when you die
Life and Style
Child's play: letting young people roam outdoors directly contradicts the current climate
lifeHow much independence should children have?
Arts and Entertainment
Tycoons' text: Warren Buffett and Bill Gates both cite John Brookes' 'Business Adventures' as their favourite book
booksFind out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
News
i100
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Nursery Assistant/Nurse all cheshire areas

£7 per hour: Randstad Education Cheshire: We are a large and successful recrui...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: Qualified Nursery Nurse for Bury Nu...

Maths Teacher

£85 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: Randstad Education are curren...

KS2 Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Plymouth: Full time key stage 2 teacher job at ...

Day In a Page

Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn
Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

Meet the man who doesn't want to go down in history as the country's last Scottish Secretary
Legoland Windsor's master model-makers reveal the tricks of their trade (including how to stop the kids wrecking your Eiffel Tower)

Meet the people who play with Lego for a living

They are the master builders: Lego's crack team of model-makers, who have just glued down the last of 650,000 bricks as they recreate Paris in Windsor. Susie Mesure goes behind the scenes
The 20 best days out for the summer holidays: From Spitfires to summer ferry sailings

20 best days out for the summer holidays

From summer ferry sailings in Tyne and Wear and adventure days at Bear Grylls Survival Academy to Spitfires at the Imperial War Museum Duxford and bog-snorkelling at the World Alternative Games...
Open-air theatres: If all the world is a stage, then everyone gets in on the act

All the wood’s a stage

Open-air productions are the cue for better box-office receipts, new audiences, more interesting artistic challenges – and a picnic
Rand Paul is a Republican with an eye on the world

Rupert Cornwell: A Republican with an eye on the world

Rand Paul is laying out his presidential stall by taking on his party's disastrous record on foreign policy
Self-preservation society: Pickles are moving from the side of your plate to become the star dish

Self-preservation society

Pickles are moving from the side of your plate to become the star dish
Generation gap opens a career sinkhole

Britons live ever longer, but still society persists in glorifying youth

We are living longer but considered 'past it' younger, the reshuffle suggests. There may be trouble ahead, says DJ Taylor