panel_hangzhou.pdf - International Congress of Chinese...

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International Congress of Chinese Mathematicians Hangzhou, December 17, 2007 Session Title Primary and Secondary Mathematics Education: A Critical Look from a European and U.S. Perspective Synopsis In order to succeed in the information-based society of the twenty first century, students must have a solid command of core subjects – reading, science, history, and the arts – with mathematics at its center. A quality mathematics education must be an integral part of the learning experience. Almost every job today demands knowledge of mathematics that includes both conceptual understanding and basic skills. Although learning takes place throughout a lifetime, the acquisition of this knowledge is preferably achieved through school education. However, in recent years, primary and secondary mathematics education in Europe and the United States has suffered from severe deficiencies, which have been brought about by inadequate reforms, inappropriate responses to sociological changes, and poor didactical practices. What are the key issues framing this debate? How do we ensure that each student receives a quality mathematics education? This panel of experts will provide the context of the debate, then discuss the reforms, their origins, and their effects, before suggesting practical solutions to the critical problems facing mathematics education in Europe and the United States. Panelists Jean-Pierre Demailly , Professor of Mathematics at Joseph Fourier University in Grenoble and Académie des Sciences de Paris, France Wilfried Schmid , Professor of Mathematics at Harvard University, U.S.A. Address of Jean-Pierre Demailly Dear Colleagues, First, I wish to express my deep gratitude to the Organizing Committee for the invitation at the ICCM 2007 in Hangzhou, and especially for suggesting my participation to this panel on Mathematics Education. I would like to discuss the French situation from my standpoint, as a researcher in Mathematics, but also as an individual deeply involved in education matters since a few years – I am currently President of the GRIP (Interdisciplinary Group for the Study of School Programs), in charge of an experimental network of classes SLECC (« Savoir Lire Ecrire Compter Calculer »). It appears to me that the extremely worrying situation we face in France is by many aspects also encountered in other European countries, so I believe that these are general trends which are worth being analyzed at an international level. As you all know, France is still a major player in Science, particularly in Mathematics : almost 25% of the talks presented last year at the International Congress in Madrid in 2006 were given by French Mathematicians. While not as strong in other scientific fields, France appears to be doing very well in Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Medecine (at least),
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and is a leader in several prominent technological fields such as nuclear energy or aeronautics. However, I would say that this prominent position reflects the value of the French Education System three or four decades ago - or more -
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