Students choosing courses in fields related to science and engineering will arrive at university unprepared due to changes in secondary education curricula, the president of the Portuguese Mathematical Society (SPM) warns.
“The problem lies in secondary school mathematics programs which, in our opinion, will not prepare students well for higher education,” Jose Carlos Santos told Lusa news agency on World Mathematics Day, which is being celebrated this tuesday.
In a review of how the teaching of mathematics in Portugal has developed, José Carlos Santos, who took office last year, began by noting that the country seems unable to design “a program that will remain stable for a generation or two “.
The most recent amendment will come into effect next year and seeks to correct the model in place today, as set out in the mandate of former Education Minister Nuno Crato.
One of the principles that guided the new model for secondary education is maths for all and citizenship and, among the main innovations, from 2024, 10th graders will have a similar first period of lessons, regardless of whether they are natural sciences or humanities. , arts or vocational courses.
The SPM had already voiced its opposition to the changes and earlier this year even accused the Ministry of Education of dropping secondary maths learning to “inexplicable historic lows”, pointing to “many and serious problems” in its opinion. in the new essential learning.
“This program has sacrificed the logical unity of Mathematics and the logical connections between different things. It is more of a set of separate facts and it is easier to learn that way, the problem is that when the student goes into a science class he is not prepared ”, insisted José Carlos Santos, who is also a professor at the Faculty of Sciences of the University of Porto.
“And one of two things: either you’re doing very badly in higher education or, alternatively, higher education should lower the bar. Either way it’s very sad,” he added.
more obscure programs
The SPM president, on the other hand, has doubts about the goals of the new programs, which aim to make students more comfortable with mathematics. For José Carlos Santos, the result will be that students are exposed to less knowledge with the illusion that they are better able to use mathematics on a daily basis.
But this will not happen, predicts the mathematician, justifying that “Mathematics that has uses in real situations is too advanced for what is reasonable to be taught in secondary education (education)” and this is reflected in the “extremely artificial” problems that usually , are given to students at this stage of their school career.
In addition to the syllabus, SPM is concerned that the changes make the syllabuses more vague, making it difficult for students to assess them objectively and comparably, and regrets that the Maths and Statistics societies have not been heard.
“What would be desirable – but I don’t see that happening – is for scientific societies and teaching associations to come together and agree on a basic program,” he argued.
World Mathematics Day is celebrated this Tuesday with science-related activities organized by various higher education institutions. The Pavilion of Knowledge, in Lisbon, will host meetings, discussions and exhibitions throughout the day, with the theme “Every hour counts”, in collaboration with SMP.
The Faculty of Sciences of the University of Lisbon has chosen the theme “Mathematics for all” and has scheduled lectures until Thursday for students and teachers of primary and secondary education. The Faculty of Science and Technology of the Universidade Nova de Lisboa is holding, this evening, a meeting of mathematics on the role of the discipline in society.