Why is Pap Ndiaye’s new strategy to get more girls into math confusing?

“I cannot be satisfied that there are fewer female mathematicians than female mathematicians,” said Education Minister Pap Ndiaye in an interview with the magazine. Echoes published on Sunday. Speaking at a maths conference from Monday to Wednesday, the minister unveiled a strategy aimed at “reconciling all students” with a special focus on girls in the discipline.

Because according to Depp’s research published last June, at the start of the 2021 school year, 56% of girls (compared to 75% of boys) chose mathematics as a special education subject in Grade 1. And they were only 26% to retain this qualification (versus 52% of boys), including 7% “expert maths” (21% for boys). This affects their orientation to higher education. It is worth noting that although 19% of them choose to continue studying mathematics through an optional “remedial mathematics” course, this does not lead to the same training as a mathematics major.

Act early

In an effort to promote equality between girls and boys, the Minister has set a goal: to combat gender stereotypes early from kindergarten and to promote female role models. At the college, it will encourage the creation of a math club, develop a taste for math, and form small groups in 6th grade math classes from the beginning of the 2023 school year. SNES-FSU deputy general secretary Sophie Vénetitay expressed confusion over the initiatives: “If students voluntarily sign up for a math club, there is no guarantee that most girls will participate. As for the small groups, will they be established in all colleges and run throughout the 6th year? he asks.

At the high school, Pap Ndiaye wants to create a math reconciliation module in 2nd grade at the beginning of the 2023 school year. But for Sophie Vénetitay, there is no guarantee that this will stop girls who drop out of math when they start high school: “The 2nd year math program aims to prepare for a science major. As a result, we have already lost half of the students in the second semester. Therefore, if we want more students, especially girls, to feel more comfortable in the discipline, we need to revise the program,” she believes. National Education Secretary Jérôme Fournier is also skeptical: “Will these modules be mandatory or optional? Will secondary schools have the staffing capacity to implement them? “, he asks.

Desire to achieve parity in qualifications

As for grades I, the minister will restore compulsory mathematics education from the beginning of the 2023 school year for general grade students who did not take the mathematics major. Thus, they will have another hour and a half of lessons per week dedicated to this discipline. According to Sophie Vénétitay, a measure that could have the opposite effect: “The risk is that most boys continue to choose mathematics and girls choose this 1 hour 30 lesson. A fear shared by Claire Piolti-Lamorthe, president of the Association of Mathematics Teachers (APMEP): “They will certainly think that this training will be sufficient for them to continue their studies that require mathematics, such as economics or business schools. it is not so. “Our mathematics will be on two levels, one low and one high,” concludes Jérôme Fournier.

The ambition of the minister is to achieve parity between girls and boys in mathematics, physical chemistry and expert mathematics majors by 2027 and to achieve parity for other courses (engineering sciences, digital and computer sciences). It will set quantifiable goals, but not quotas, so that it doesn’t just remain wishful thinking. “We will very strongly mobilize the heads of enterprises, teachers and educate families, we will look for girls who have an appetite in this field one by one. “, he declares Echoes. “In Year 2, students have 54 hours during the year to work on their orientation, but we lack the resources to really support them. However, it is imperative if we want to avoid the phenomenon of self-censorship,” explains Jérôme Fournier.

“The slogan is not enough”

For Sophie Vénetitay, “the slogan is not enough. To really influence girls’ orientation choices, we need to employ more National Educational Psychologists (or psy-ENs) to help them define their own educational project. Because today they often work in several institutions and there are few places to accept students. »

Jérôme Fournier also believes that it is important to work on representation: “No famous scientist is mentioned except Marie Curie. It is necessary to show the courses with the work of more female scientists, to organize meetings with well-known professionals in their field.

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