Posted by: Administrator | 31/10/2009

Tony Gardiner: LMS and Education

Kevin Buzzard is probably not alone: one suspects that almost everyone who is going to vote has by now already voted.  So this post should not be seen as “touting for votes”: it is rather an extension of the “communication” theme – a plea for whoever is elected to leave behind the presumptuous era of “Aunty knows best”, and to work to establish renewed contact with members.

  • Tim Gowers supported Kevin Buzzard’s plea for some way of giving members a voice.  Edmund Harris elaborated on this issue.
  • The current Education Secretary also writes that “it is important that all LMS members have the opportunity to make their views known in the education debate”.  Yet actions speak louder than words: I cannot be alone in finding this assertion hard to square with the experience of recent years.  The “Use of mathematics” debacle suggests a need to rethink not only how different parts of the LMS machine articulate with one another, but how those who speak on behalf of members can make sure that they do not ride roughshod over members’ views (even though the most appropriate response may not exactly reflect many members’ views).
  • One gets the impression that over the last five years the LMS Education Committee has been repeatedly sidelined by small, relatively unaccountable “units”.  LMS responses to important consultations which the committee has no doubt laboured over appear to be unavailable.  (In his “manifesto”, the Education Secretary writes: “in recent years the Education Ctee has addressed such issues as the changes to GCSE, Diplomas, post 16 and A-level teaching, enrichment and engagement activities with schools, benchmarking of undergraduate degrees, training of maths lecturers, the issues related to the Bologna agreement and the popularisation of mathematics”.  At the time this was written I could not find any of the detailed responses referred to on the LMS website: the single exception today – which proves the rule – is the response to the A-level consultation, which was submitted many months ago, but which was quietly posted a week ago, presumably in response to unseen pressures.)
    Most public statements on key educational issues seem to originate from such groups as CMS, LMS-IMA, MPU: this would be fine if members could see how these statements articulated with, and reflected the detailed work of the Education Committee.
  • On 18 October, “Anon” asked the current Education Secretary if he “could say something about “Use of Mathematics”, which seems to be quite a controversial topic, and on which it seems entirely unclear what the LMS position actually is.”  The resulting silence indicates the awkwardness of the question – and one could be forgiven for guessing that the sudden unannounced appearance of the official submission may be a sop to those who feel unable to answer publicly.
  • So I hope that whoever is elected as Education Secretary will (a) use the website to advertise imminent business, and to invite contributions from interested and experienced members; (b) make final submissions publicly available as soon as practicable, and where time allows make draft responses available as widely as possible for comment; (c) insist that statements on educational matters that emerge from other LMS affiliated groups be checked out with, and take due account of the deliberations of the Education Committee.

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