Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Nurturing a Nation of Number Crunchers: News

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Nurturing a Nation of Number Crunchers: News

Article excerpt

Gove looks to a Russian model for specialist maths schools.

First it was Sweden, then the US and now Michael Gove is looking east for his latest inspiration on free schools. The education secretary is considering basing his first wave of specialist maths free schools on the little-known Kolmogorov Physics and Mathematics School in Moscow, Russia.

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.

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".

TES understands that officials within the Department for Education are now keen to establish the schools on the model of Kolmogorov, a boarding school that selects the brightest mathematicians in Russia.

The school, which was founded by Russian mathematician Andrei Kolmogorov, is part of Moscow State University, meaning that pupils are taught by professors and research assistants from the university's mathematics department. Students usually join at the age of 15, opting to specialise in maths or physics, but some can be as young as 13 when they start.

According to Alex Gammerman, a Russian professor in computer science at Royal Holloway, University of London, and 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.

"There is no doubt that Britain needs schools like it, but it does have some negative effects," he added. "For instance, when the students get to university they tend to find the first two years very boring, as they know it all already, and many end up dropping out."

Maths is seen as a "fundamental strategic priority" by the British government, which wants the 16-18 schools to produce a new generation of mathematicians able to establish innovative companies in the UK. …

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