Gove’s new maths to be based on Russia

I am personally always a little dubious when the government picks a country and says “let us do it like them” largely because what is actually meant is “let us do this little bit like they do it there, but not the rest.”

Michael Gove is doing it again by suggesting the first wave of specialist maths free schools will be based on the Kolmogorov Physics and Mathematics School in Moscow, Russia.

If you have never heard of it, then you are with me, for I haven’t either, but according to the TES it is a boarding school for bright mathematicians.

The government announced in its Autumn Statement last year that it would be opening 16 specialist maths schools for 16- to 18-year-olds across the country over the next three years.

OK, only 16 schools but they all have to be equipped, and there is every chance that other schools will start copying them once their approach is revealed.

The chancellor, George Osborne, said that the new schools would aim to “give our most talented young mathematicians the chance to flourish” and “produce more of the engineering and science graduates so important for our longer term success”.

According to Alex Gammerman, chair of the University of London’s Kolmogorov Lecture Committee, the Moscow school has been hugely successful in producing top mathematicians. “The school maintains an excellent level of mathematics and it selects the best young mathematicians in Russia,” Professor Gammerman said. “The children are doing maths almost 24 hours a day because there is the competitive edge of trying to outdo one another.

The government has rated maths as a “fundamental strategic priority” and the DfE has hosted a consultation meeting on the new free schools with interested parties from the mathematical community in order to outline its plans.

Professor Alexandre Borovik, of the University of Manchester, said recently…

“So far, it has been only independent schools that have been able to produce mathematicians on anything like a similar scale, but there has been nothing like it in the state sector. To see whether it can be done, you really have to be very selective and go down the route of what was successful in Eastern Europe and Russia.

According to the Kolmogorov school, 85 per cent of its students go on to study at Moscow State University, while the remaining 15 per cent study at some of the world’s leading institutions, such as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of Oxford and the University of Cambridge.

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Tony Attwood

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