15/01/2013 05:37 GMT

Maths Education Needs An Overhaul To Increase A-Level Pupil Numbers, Research Suggests

An overhaul of maths education is needed to boost the numbers of teenagers taking the subject after GCSE, research suggests.

Just one in five students in England continue to study maths after the age of 16, lower than many other countries, according to a study by the Nuffield Foundation.

In Germany and Hong Kong more than 90% of pupils continue the subject, along with more than 65% in Singapore, New Zealand and the United States, it says.

The study, which looked at maths education in seven countries, calls for England to introduce a new maths qualification, focusing on mathematical fluency and statistics, for those students who do not want to study the subject at AS or A-level.

It suggests that some students should be given an extra year to prepare for their maths GCSE to ensure they have a good grasp of the subject.

And it says that encouraging teenagers to study a wide range of subjects may be a better way to increase take-up of maths than making it compulsory.

The report argues that New Zealand and Singapore have high levels of pupils taking advanced maths, which is equivalent to AS-level, but it is not compulsory.

Instead, both countries allow students to take a choice of subjects, but require these to cover a range of disciplines. For example, in Singapore a student studying arts and humanities must also choose a maths or science option.

The report also found that the evidence from Hong Kong, New Zealand and Singapore indicates that the strongest incentive for students to continue studying maths is because they need to do so for higher education or employment.

It also says that universities and employers should ask students planning to study subjects such as teaching and nursing to continue taking maths beyond GCSE.

Report author Professor Jeremy Hodgen said: "Our study shows the importance of a consensual approach to policy development and implementation. Higher education and employers will need to be involved in the development of a new qualification if they are to value it and to make it an entry requirement.

"Schools and colleges may need to be incentivised to offer the new qualification to students, as well as to ensure that existing advanced qualifications maintain their levels of participation."