Literacy or Numeracy – a Question

As a person of a certain age I am naturally becoming both grumpier and more disparaging of modern youth. I exhibit the usual traits: often remarking on how young medical professionals and police officers look and asking are they really able to cure and protect us, since they all look like they just left school. I also begin to mutter when a shop assistant is not able to make change without the assistance of technology.

The latter trait – unease at innumeracy – is perhaps my most bothersome behaviour. I have wondered whether decimalisation is to blame. If you were trained from an early age to count your pocket money in pounds, shillings and pence, and you purchased your lollies by the ounce you were set up for life. Dollars, cents and grams simply don’t cut it.

On a related topic I recently read an article in the Economist on the question of which British universities do most to boost graduate salaries. Oxford made it into the top 10, just, at number 10. Cambridge did not. Prince William’s alma mater, St Andrews was the bottom of the list but, then, I don’t suppose he has to worry too much about income.

Portsmouth was top of list and the article noted that “Portsmouth …. provides remedial maths and literacy catch-ups for those needing them.” The article commented that a school leaver’s grades are a more important determinant of future salary than the status or research profile of their tertiary institute, and that “Subjects which include some element of maths are well-rewarded.”

All this set me thinking.

A lot of time and effort has gone into delivering literacy and numeracy in New Zealand over the last few years. I have a question (two actually) for you. Is that effort having effect? What is more important, literacy or numeracy?

Rather a lot of qualifications

The UK has announced changes to technical education. An article in The Guardian provides details.

One change will be to replace the current 13,000 qualification with 15. Another will be to increase the number of hours students train by 50%.