Category Archives: Education

Physics and mathematics researchers in schools

The UK government is launching a new scheme to encourage those with a PhD in mathematics or physics to teach in high schools in England.

Under the scheme researchers would be paid £40,000 a year for conducting master classes for pupils in networks of schools, setting up free online maths and physics resources for schools to use, and teaching lessons that stretch more advanced students.

However, there is some concern that some of the researchers will not have all the skills needed to teach children, especially those that are struggling with the subjects.

I share some of this concern, however getting researchers involved in schools is a good thing. I don’t know the details here, but I would hope the terms are based on some kind of extended leave from your university.

University researchers to teach pupils in government maths drive BBC News

Wales needs more engineers?

flag of wales According to the Royal Academy of Engineers Wales needs something like an extra 2,500 graduates by 2020 to cope with those leaving due to retirement.

Again, I just don’t know if this is really the case, given that we know that plenty of engineers are not finding suitable employment.

As soon as you look at the numbers, it is very hard to justify [claims of] a skills shortage

Marcus Body, head of research at Work Communications

Nearly a quarter of UK engineering graduates are working in non-graduate jobs or unskilled work such as waiting and shop work, a report suggests.

Katherine Sellgren (BBC) (2011)

I know I am starting to sound repetitive here, but what is really going on and how can we get to the truth? Do we really need more STEM graduates or not?

Wales needs 2,500 engineers by 2020, professionals says BBC News Wales

Charlotte Church to study physics

Image by BrotherDarksoul
The Welsh singer Charlotte Church has said she wants to obtain a degree in physics.

Speaking to BBC Wales she said

I want to go and do a degree in physics – I will have to do an A-level in physics and maths first though.

What ever she decides I wish her luck in her studies.

The other music stars turned scientists include Brian May of Queen fame and Brian Cox.

Charlotte Church plans to study for degree in physics BBC News

Do we need more STEM graduates?

The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) suggest that the government should make careers in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) more attractive and that one method could be to reduce the tuition fees.

More STEM graduates?

A CBI/Pearson survey suggests that 42% of UK firms faced difficulties recruiting individuals with STEM skills and knowledge last year.

Highly-skilled workers are essential for our growth sectors and it will be those young people with science and maths who will go on to become the engineers and new tech entrepreneurs of tomorrow.

Katja Hall, the CBI’s chief policy director

The other side of the coin
Call me skeptic, but my personal observations, as well as talking to others suggests this is simply BS. We don’t in fact have enough STEM jobs in the UK as it is!

Research conducted last year by the employment consultancy Work Communications showed the number of places on all graduate schemes offered by UK employers in all sectors to be 65,000 for the academic year 2012-2013. However, 132,790 UK students graduated with a first degree in STEM subjects in 2011-2012, according to the Higher Education Statistics Agency.

As soon as you look at the numbers, it is very hard to justify [claims of] a skills shortage

Marcus Body, head of research at Work Communications

Again this is backed up with my own anecdotal observations.

Unemployment of STEM graduates

Katherine Sellgren (BBC), in 2011 wrote about Engineering graduates specifically, see here.

Nearly a quarter of UK engineering graduates are working in non-graduate jobs or unskilled work such as waiting and shop work, a report suggests.

Katherine Sellgren (BBC)

Has the situation changed that drastically in the past couple of years? I doubt it.

What is going on?
I have no idea. It seems that we have lots of rather contradictory “evidence” here. One lobbing group says we need more STEM graduates while the unemployment levels and the level of “unsuitable” jobs taken up seems to suggest quite the opposite.

The higher up the education tree the worse it gets..

Does the UK really need more engineers? Times Education website

CBI call to cut tuition fees to end ‘skills vacuum’

Chinese teachers to run "maths hubs" in English schools

S Up to 60 mathematics teachers from Shanghai will be brought in to England to help raise mathematics standards in an exchange program to be organised by the Department of Education.

We have some brilliant maths teachers in this country but what I saw in Shanghai – and other Chinese cities – has only strengthened my belief that we can learn from them.

Elizabeth Truss, Education Minister.

This follows her recent visit to China in search of why they do so well in mathematics. I posted about this here.

This is also some worry about mathematics education and attitudes in Wales. I posted about this recently here. With that, I have no idea is the Welsh Assembly will seek to do something similar with Welsh schools.

Is the problem with mathematics education that bad?

I will answer that with a quote…

78% of working-age adults have maths skills below the equivalent of a GCSE grade C – and that half only have the maths skills of a child leaving primary school.

Mike Ellicock, chief executive of National Numeracy

Oh dear…

Shanghai teachers flown in for maths BBC News website

National Numeracy

Welsh parents are urged to be positive about maths

flag of wales A campaign is going to be launched urging parents to have a more positive attitude towards mathematics and learning mathematics. This comes after a poll found three in 10 parents in Wales questioned admitted being negative about maths in front of their children.

Maths results are the worst of any core subject in Wales behind English, Welsh and science.

It’s fair to say that maths is suffering from an image problem, and as today’s poll demonstrates, there is still work to do to change the view in some quarters which is that maths isn’t really important and that it doesn’t really matter what we say to children about it.

We understand the value of strong numeracy skills, for life and for employment.

Education Minister Huw Lewis

The “What you say counts” campaign will be launched by the minister at a supermarket in Cardiff Bay on Monday.

Parents ‘must be positive about maths’, says Huw Lewis BBC News.

Nicolaus Copernicus' birthday

S Today, the 19th February is the birthday of Mikołaj Kopernik, maybe better known in the west as Nicolaus Copernicus.

Kopernik was born on the 19th February 1473 in the city of Toruń, in the province of Royal Prussia, in the Crown of the Kingdom of Poland.

The heliocentric hypothesis
De revolutionibus orbium coelestium (1543) is the book in which which Kopernik offered an alternative model of the Solar system to Ptolemy’s geocentric system. Kopernik’s new model places the Sun and not the Earth at the center of the Solar system and represented a new shift in thinking. Importantly, the heliocentric model fits the astronomical observations much more naturally than the geocentric model which required strange phenomena like epicycles.

Nicolaus Copernicus Monument in Warsaw
In Warsaw there is Bertel Thorvaldsen’s monument which was completed in 1830. The monument comes with the words “Nicolo Copernico Grata Patria” (Latin: “To Nicolaus Copernicus from a Grateful Nation”) and “Mikołajowi Kopernikowi Rodacy” (Polish: “To Mikołaj Kopernik from his compatriots”).

Early in the Nazi German occupation of Warsaw in 1939, the Germans replaced the Latin and Polish inscriptions on the monument with a plaque in German: “To Nicolaus Copernicus from the German Nation”.

On 11 February 1942 Maciej Aleksy Dawidowski removed the German plaque!

During the 1944 Warsaw uprising the momentum was damaged and shortly after the Germans decided to melt it down for scrap metal. The Germans sent the monument to Nysa (southwestern Poland), but they had to retreat before they could melt it down. The Polish people returned the monument to Warsaw on 22 July 1945. The monument was renovated and unveiled again on 22 July 1949.

In 2007 a bronze representation of Kopernik’s solar system, modeled on an image in his De revolutionibus orbium coelestium, was placed on the square in front of the monument.

You can see some pictures of me next to the monument here.

Nicolas Copernicus, Wikipedia page.