UNESCO: Challenges in basic mathematics education

The document "Les défis de l'enseignement des mathématiques dans
l'éducation de base" has been published by UNESCO and is available here:

The english version of this document is availabe also on the UNESCO website:

The document "Current challenges in basic science education"
is also out and can be download here as a PDF file:

In 2009, as ICMI president, Michèle Artigue was asked to take part in a meeting of experts organized by UNESCO in Paris about science and mathematics education policies, and then on the basis of the conclusions of this meeting to prepare a document on the challenges of mathematics education in basic education to be published and disseminated by UNESCO together with a parallel document addressing the challenges of scientific education. This second document was written by Charles Ryan, University of Winchester UK.

The two documents have just been concluded but are not yet available for distribution.

In line with the declaration from the World Conference in Science held in Budapest in 1999, they consider that anyone should have access to a scientific education of quality, and also that such an education has a decisive contribution to offer to the realization of the Millenium Goals adopted by the UN in 2000. Mathematics education is here considered an essential component of scientific education at large, and the connections to be established between education in mathematics and in science are emphasized in the two documents which share a common introduction and structure.

The two documents were presented in a seminar held in Paris, January 19, at the UNESCO headquarters and presided by Georges Haddad, the director of the Education Research & Foresigh Team of UNESCO, and a former director of the Division of Higher Education. A number of UNESCO staff and other interested public were present.

UNESCO presented these documents as a response to the world need of scientists able of imagining futures of which we can now just have a glimpse, but also of our need to understand the challenges of health, environment, energy, development so that all the people are able to understand these challenges and that the debate is not reserved to specialists.

UNESCO considers it important to have a scientific education of quality for all, and this includes mathematics education and technological education.

The mathematics document presents first the agreed vision on the significance of a mathematics education of quality, emphasizing that it should be faithful to mathematics, both in its content and practices, raise students' interest towards the discipline and develop students' confidence in their mathematical capacities. It should thus enable students to understand that mathematics is part of a long history combined with the history of humanity; that mathematics is not a fixed corpus of knowledge but, on the contrary, a living and expanding science, whose development nourishes that of other scientific fields and is nourished by them in return.

The current published version of the document is in French. An English translation has been prepared by the ICMI Executive Committee. Spanish, Portuguese and Italian versions are being prepared. UNESCO is open to translation in any other language, and the different versions will be made accessible on the ICMI website. ICMI sincerely hopes that the publication of this document and its dissemination will productively support reflection and action among all those who can contribute to reaching the goal of quality mathematics education for all.

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