Mathematics woes for local students
PANAMA. The teaching of mathematics in Panamanian schools is substandard and it very common to hear parents of public schoolchildren sa...
PANAMA. The teaching of mathematics in Panamanian schools is substandard and it very common to hear parents of public schoolchildren say “my child cannot due sums” at the end of the semester.
Figures from the Ministry of Education (MEDUCA) indicate that in 2006 students from seventh to the ninth grade registered the highest levels of failure in this subject, with 18.8 percent in Bocas del Toro, 18.4 percent in Panama East and 18.3 percent in San Miguelito.
The MEDUCA report said that in 2007 around 22,000 students in the country did not pass mathematics.
The then Minister of Education, Belgis Castro said that there were serious deficiencies in the teaching of subjects such as mathematics, biology, physics and chemistry and recognized that the methodology must be revised.
According to the National Supervisor of Mathematics of MEDUCA, Jose De La Rosa, one of the problems in the teaching of this subject is that the students are afraid of it and think that it is very difficult to learn.
De La Rosa said that mathematics is functional and part of life, but at the same time recognizes that other factors produce failures.
“The methodology and the conceptual part of the teaching of mathematics on the part of the educator need more attention and the students need the support of their parents in mastering this important matter. If they paid more attention to their children, there would less failures,” said De La Rosa.
Meanwhile, high school teacher, Luis Paredes who teaches in a high school in Aguadulce, Cocle province, said, “there are no resources to update the educator in the teaching of mathematics.”
Paredes, who is in charge of grade 12 said that he is teaching mathematics in the XXI century with tools of the XX century, although he believes that the teacher should find training on their own and not wait for MEDUCA to do its seminars.
The remarks of the two teachers are true. In the admission tests for the faculty of Architecture of the University of Panama only 41 percent of the students passed the arithmetic test and the same happened with basic subjects such as geometry with 32 percent and algebra with 34 percent passes.
The new Minister of Education, Lucy Molinar is going to have a tough time modernizing the curriculum, especially when teachers and their unions are reluctant to make any kind of changes or learn new skills.
Over the last few years foreign employers have complained that they cannot find the right personnel in Panama that have the skills they require and that is the reason they have to employ foreigners.
The universities are asking for changes in the curriculum, but it might be too late.