NESA Says We Need Maths

Beth S (Year 12), Chief Contributor

Recently, the NSW government announced an important, and extremely impactful, change to the HSC and Preliminary syllabuses. Every person sitting the HSC will be required to take maths, with the new senior syllabuses to be introduced in 2025.  

This change has been discussed by parliament since the NSW Curriculum Review Interim Report of 2019, with Gladys Berejiklian stating at the time, “We promised to take the curriculum back to the basics and today we are taking the first steps to deliver on that commitment by prioritising maths.” 

What does this mean? 

Every child currently in year 8 and below will be required to take compulsory mathematics as part of their HSC schooling, as well as the current requirement of English. 

The year 7-10 curriculum will also be impacted, facing reformation to better prepare students taking on the challenge of HSC mathematics, whichever their intended course level is.  

So, is this a good thing? 

The answer is ambivalent. One can see what the aims of this implementation are, but is it yet another way to privilege a certain type of thinker, and is that what we want to be reflected in the conclusion of our schooling lives? 

The change in curriculum is aimed at improving the career prospects of individuals graduating under the HSC system. 

This has been implemented due to increasing concern regarding the declining numeracy understanding amongst high school students, and its impacts on the country as a collective. The anxiety stemmed from the loss of skills such as budgeting, calculating shopping costs, and account-keeping. 

Education minister Sarah Mitchell states, “Having a strong grasp of maths opens a world of possibilities for young people.” She furthers her argument by claiming, “Maths helps develop skills for life, providing students with fundamental skills in problem-solving, analysis, and reasoning that are essential no matter what career they choose.” 

The question is whether other subjects can provide the same level of adequacy in these areas, and, as such, is it necessary to force different thinkers into a uniform route? 

As someone who has never particularly enjoyed maths, I still think it is important to take a level of maths, to some extent. 

Is that extent the HSC? I’m not sure. 

It’s important to remember that there are multiple mathematics pathways for students at preliminary and HSC levels, this being Standard 1, Standard 2, Advanced, Extension 1, and Extension 2. It’s also important to remember that no one in the government is asking all students to take advanced or extension. But I think what is most important to remember, is that maths is a subject that can be difficult for many people. 

This leads me back to my initial question. 

Is it fair to privilege a certain type of thinker, when there are many possibilities and career routes that do not require, nor want, said person? 

The community response has been ambivalent, much like my personal opinion. Debates continue to discuss the necessity of the courses, as well as the content if they must be made compulsory.