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I shouldn’t have been surprised, but I was – not only surprised, but shocked. Horrified, even. And yet, it’s what has always happened in such situations.
From the library of the Serapeum in Alexandria, Egypt, destroyed by the Christian Roman emperor Theodosius I in 392 CE because of its “pagan” contents;1 to the ancient Buddhist university complex of Nalanda in Magadha, India, sacked in 1193 CE by Turkic Muslim invaders under Bakhtiyar Khalji;2 to the Muslim Madrasa in Granada, Spain, pillaged in 1499 CE by the Christian inquisitor-general Cisneros, who removed and then burned all its library’s contents in a public bonfire;3 to the loss of approximately 800 monastic libraries throughout England during the Dissolution of the Monasteries under Henry VIII from 1536 to 1540 CE;4 to the deliberate burning of the Maya codices of the Yucatán on 12 July 1562 CE by the invading Spanish Bishop Diego de Landa in an inquisitorial auto-da-fé ceremony;5 to 80% of the contents of the National Library of Cambodia being destroyed in the late 1970s CE by Khmer Rouge forces6 … The shameful list goes on and on.
Books are often one of the first casualties of political and cultural upheaval because of what they contain – because they are the traditional holders of education. And education is power. So when I read a recent article about schools, and teachers’ homes, being broken into and ransacked for “unapproved” books by an occupying army in a currently ongoing conflict, my outrage merely mirrored that of untold millions from many past generations.
Yet it is not only invading armies or those with conflicting religious beliefs which use (and abuse) education to further their aims. In many countries, including the UK, a simple, democratic change of government can bring about an anything-but-simple change in education policy which can have far-reaching effects on what is taught and how. Meanwhile, very little, if any, genuine thought is given to the students trying to learn under these changing conditions, nor to those who are struggling to teach them. Student, teacher, school and even country performance assessments, including motivation-undermining and context-oblivious comparison tables, seem to be the driving forces behind these frequent changes of pedagogical emphasis.
Here at Cambridge Maths, we have been deliberately conscious of this while developing our Framework of mathematics education. Two of the design principles which have guided us in this work have been that the mathematics represented within the Framework would be relevant for all people aged 3 to 19 years, and that it would be underpinned by research and evidence. We consult with maths education experts and researchers from around the world to ensure our adherence to these principles, and the resulting interconnected landscape of mathematics is already informing curriculum and textbook development in a number of disparate countries. In addition, our professional development resources will encourage teacher / practitioner autonomy by helping them develop the skills to access and assess the research for themselves while providing them with tools to apply that research into their own lessons.
And this is where you can help. This month we have launched a closed beta website – JourneyMaths – which presents a coherent collection of these teacher-facing resources, along with their underlying parts of the Framework’s landscape, for individuals to explore for themselves. We are looking for teachers / practitioners to help us develop this website and its associated resources further by signing up to JourneyMaths, exploring it, and then giving us constructive feedback on it. If this interests you, we would greatly appreciate your help, so please sign up here to join us in our efforts
Join the conversation: You can tweet us @CambridgeMaths or comment below.