Rishi Sunak’s Plan To Make Maths Compulsory Until 18 – Is It A Wise Move?

Maths equation on white board
Mike Wong

Rishi Sunak, after becoming Britain’s Prime Minister on 25th October 2022, has announced plans to ensure that all students study some form of mathematics up to the age of 18. Mike Wong analyses the pros and cons of the policy idea.

The argument put forward by Rishi Sunak was that the UK is “in a world where data is everywhere and statistics underpin every job, our children’s jobs will require more analytical skills than ever before. And letting our children out into the world without those skills is letting our children down.” Sunak is vowing to make numeracy central to reforming the education system within the UK. He also pointed out the scale of the challenge, “Right now, just half of all 16–19 year-olds study any maths at all.”

These were some of his arguments put forward in a speech he made on 4th January 2023. The proposal would effectively keep A-Level maths optional, however enforce maths as compulsory for all British students across the UK in some form or another.

There are also concerns that his proposal would affect disadvantaged children in the UK

Sunak’s decision to make maths compulsory across the UK would be considered welcomed amongst those coming from countries known for having a strong maths education, most notably Asian countries such as China, Japan, South Korea and Singapore. While I personally believe that maths is essential and must be studied – considering that maths is needed for our daily lives – I also acknowledge that there is considerable opposition to making maths compulsory in the UK. 

The proposal to make maths compulsory has run into criticism from the Labour party. There are concerns that his proposal would affect disadvantaged children in the UK, as according to the Guardian around 60% of them lack basic maths skills at the age of 16.

Sunak [was] accused of rehashing old conservative announcements

There are also parallels drawn between Sunak’s speech and former PM David Cameron’s decision to try and make maths compulsory in 2011, which never became law, leading to Sunak being accused of rehashing old conservative announcements rather than proposing brand new, reformist and modern education proposals that would allow better quality education for all families in the UK.

In conclusion, it remains to be seen whether Sunak’s education proposal would be successful, as the Conservative government has previously had difficulties introducing similar maths policies or in fact introducing any education reform. There is still considerable opposition to Rishi Sunak’s proposal, considering that the Labour party gained many seats in the 2022 UK local elections, and popularity of the British Conservative Party is dwindling, whilst in contrast, Labour itself is doing well in the polls.

Mike Wong

Featured image courtesy of Jeswin Thomas via Pexels. Image license found here. No changes were made to this image. 

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