Maths in Welsh

Not so very long ago, there seemed to be a feeling that some subjects in the school curriculum were less suited to being taught in Welsh than others. So we had the situation where arts and humanities were taught in Welsh in Welsh-medium secondary schools, but where science and maths tended to be taught in English.

Of course, there was never any real basis for such thinking. Can you imagine telling a German or a Frenchman that maths shouldn't be taught in German or French?

Thankfully that attitude is changing, but we still have some way to go. So it was particularly encouraging to come across this news on the Cardiff University website:

Welsh medium provision gets boost

The University has secured two of the first fully-funded Welsh medium academic posts set up by the newly established Coleg Cymraeg Cenedlaethol to provide new opportunities for students to study through the medium of Welsh.


Created through the Coleg’s Academic Staffing Scheme the five-year posts will be based in the School of Mathematics and Cardiff Law School. The post holders will be responsible for teaching and developing Welsh medium provision within their respective subject areas.

The School of Mathematics post will specifically address the need for a better supply of highly trained Welsh medium mathematics teachers for the secondary education sector in Wales. The School will develop a new module, the first of its kind, to inspire and enthuse bright mathematics graduates from Cardiff to consider careers in Welsh medium mathematics teaching.

It is also envisaged that collaboration with other institutions in the south east regional sector, specialising in mathematics education, will play a strong part in delivering this objective ...

Cardiff University News Centre, 4 April 2011

Would we have got this without Plaid being in government? The commitment to a Coleg Ffederal was negotiated into the One Wales Agreement by Plaid even though it wasn't part of Labour's manifesto.

Labour's manifesto did say they were committed to more Welsh-medium education, and to more subjects being offered in Welsh in English-medium schools. But how could that be achieved without ensuring we train enough top quality teachers who are able to deliver it?

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Anonymous said...

"Would we have got this without Plaid being in government?"

This opens up the wider question of whether Plaid should go into another coalition with Labour now that the condems hold power at Westminster and what should be their demands/requirements if they do? (On the assumtion that after the results are in a coalition is on the cards).

Many Plaid supporters have questioned the wisdom of One Wales mk2, now that, constitutionally Labour can offer little plus their future electoral fortunes may be better served by a term in opposition as opposed to a junior coalition partner. However, this ignores Plaids other main purpose (if I can put it like that) which is the promotion of the Welsh language and as you imply above this would very much be better served with Plaid in govt. albeit as a junior partner.

Would it be worth Plaid easing off demands on constitutional issues for a term in order to really push the Welsh language up the agenda?


Anonymous said...

Interestingly enough the first modern secular Welsh-medium school was established in Patagonia (as Welsh was banned in Wales).

Unlike the Sunday Schools back home these schools taught all subjects in Welsh - including maths. They then realised that the classical way of counting in Welsh - counting by twenties (ugain 20, deugain, 40, trigain,60) and the rather convoluted numbers like deunaw (18 lit. 'two nines' etc) was difficult for the kids. So, they devised the simples decimal system - un deg wyth etc. It was then transported back to Wales when years later Welsh became a medium of instruction here!

So, Welsh is perfectly able to encompass all thoughts and becoming a fully, secular, modern language helps in this. The people who've been against the expansion of WM educaiton are the ones who'd be quite happy for Welsh to be an ethnic language of a social ghetto.

Anonymous said...

Encouraging news, especially at the bottom which mentions that the council is looking to establish 2 more 11-14 schools on top of this new one. It looks as if Cwm Rhymni may "turn into" a WM College of sorts, which is one answer to offering the varied 14-19 year old pathways which are required.


Anonymous said...

In actual fact, since devolution, we've seen the greatest errosion of Welsh language/culture in what was once known as Y FRO GYMRAEG. AIMVHO

Anonymous said...

Re-above.....sorry, it was meant for another blog.

Anonymous said...

I studied maths in Cardiff University 10 years ago and around 10% to 15% of us students could speak Welsh. However only those of us from East Wales i.e the more "English" areas were taught Maths up to A-level. It is sad that those from West Wales who went to bilingual schools had to switch to doing Maths in English at either GCSE or A-level and as a consequence they were not taught a whole vocabulary of Maths terms which would have been useful when (as some did) became Welsh medium Maths teachers.

I hope that my relatives in West Wales will now be able follow Maths to A-level without having to swap languages at such an important stage of the learning, something I was very lucky to have avoided in Ysgol Morgan Llwyd in Wrecsam.

Good luck Prifysgol Caerdydd with the initiative, and well done to all the dedicated teachers in Welsh language schools, without these people (and of course parents, many of whom can't speak Welsh or may not agree with Plaid’s policies), Welsh schools would not be a success and therefore as popular as they are.

Plaid should now look ahead and see if it can ensure that these bright graduates can remain in Wales after graduating, even if they do not wish to pursue a career in teaching.

Anonymous said...

Oops - just re-read the second sentence should above have read - However only those of us from East Wales i.e the more "English" areas were taught Maths up to A-level Welsh.

MH said...

Dai, I too am concerned about whether it is wise for Plaid to want a second term of coalition with Labour. I don't want to rule it out, but being in government for its own sake is always wrong; we should only consider it if we can work out an agreement that includes some of our priorities in the same way as we did in the One Wales Agreement. We don't even have the manifestos yet, so it is too early to say.

However I think we must distinguish between two things which had been lumped together in the OWA. Because Labour are no longer in power at Westminster, there is nothing that Labour can deliver at Westminster in the way of constitutional reform. So I think we might well consider the programme for goverment in Wales separately from the programme for further constitutional reform. There might well be enough common ground with Labour to get a One Wales II on the first, but I doubt we will get the same agreement on the second.

We know Labour are dead set against any degree of fiscal responsibility, but that the Tories and LibDems have come round to the position that we in Wales should take some responsibility for how much we are taxed, rather than just have a government that spends whatever it's given. It is very encouraging that the Tories and LibDems want to go this far, and long overdue. At all costs, we must not allow ourselves to be tied in with Labour if it means we cannot press for more responsibility to be devolved to Wales.


And yes, it's good news on Caerffili. I'm trying to find out more, because a similar proposal was put forward last year, but rejected. I haven't quite figured out what's changed.

MH said...

Thanks for that, Anon 10:43. It highlights one of the conundrums of Welsh-medium education. The old definition of a Welsh-medium school was that more than 50% of the subjects (with a few exeptions) were taught in Welsh. In the traditionally Welsh-speaking areas, that resulted in a very patchy mix of Welsh and English that depended on the individual schools and somethimes even the individual teachers. However in the more Anglicized areas of Wales, the designated Welsh-medium schools have been consistently good.

A few weeks ago (I've just tried a search, but I can't find it) Alwyn on Miserable Old Fart was arguing for designated WM schools in Gwynedd because it was "hit and miss" whether the school nearest you would teach all subjects in Welsh or not.


On the subject of retaining graduates in Wales, one of my friends argues quite persuasively that we could write off tuition fee debt for students that find employment in Wales for say three or five years after graduation. I think the statistics show that graduates tend to settle in the place where they get their first job.

Anonymous said...

MH: On the subject of retaining graduates in Wales, one of my friends argues quite persuasively that we could write off tuition fee debt for students that find employment in Wales for say three or five years after graduation. I think the statistics show that graduates tend to settle in the place where they get their first job.

I'd certainly be in favour of this or other similar proposals. It breaks my heart to see people educated in Wales and then leave to study outside the country. That's their choice of course and I wouldn't wish to stop them. But a state (Wales in this case) should do all it can to keep it's young people in the country. After all the state and the nation have made a massive financial (and for me far more importantly, linguistic and cultural) investment. Once people study in England, then tend to find work there, partners and settle down. Not every time, but very often.

Were we an island or an independent state people and journalists would talk about a 'brain drain' but 'cos it's Wales it's taken as normal like the weather.


Anonymous said...

I think Plaid needs to be in government.

A lot of good things came out of One Wales (... which seem to have benefited Labour more than Plaid!). However, in the case of the language and Welsh in education, although Leighton Andrews is several gears better than the last Education Minister, I think Plaid needs to be in power to bed the policies down.

A term of Labour majority rule will be a wasted opportunity for the language, culture as well as economy and health.


Anonymous said...

"And yes, it's good news on Caerffili. I'm trying to find out more, because a similar proposal was put forward last year, but rejected. I haven't quite figured out what's changed."

I think it's something to do with the fact that it is now "just" an 11-14 school, whereas, the origional proposal was the same to start with but with a view in the longer term for it to grow into a full secondary school. There were concerns that such a school would struggle to offer a sufficiant variety of options for the 14-19 yrs path ways. (At least that is what I gleaned form what is reported on Rhags websire :

It does seem that (especially with the mention of 2 extra 11-14 schools in the county) that Caerffili is creating a model of smaller middle schools and one large "finishing school". This is one way of avoiding the difficulty that (all schools, but especially) WM schools have of getting a big enough critcal mass of pupils to be able to conform and offer enough variety courses (as they now must) for the 14-19 learning pathway.

Seems quite a good way of doing it to me and may offer a model for other counties to follow. Opening a brand new 11-19 yrold secondry school is a massive task, frought with difficulties re. critical nos of pupils etc. This model of doing it does seem a novel way around it.


Anonymous said...

I'm interested in the history of the reform of Welsh number words to make teaching math easier. Does anyone have any details? If so please post them here, or send an email to me at Thanks

Anonymous said...

All parents should be given a choice.
If we want our children educated through the medium of Welsh, we should be able to have it, if we want our children educated through the medium of English, then we should be able to have it. Both should be equally funded by the government.
This way, we would be able to assess properly which language is appropriate to teach our children Maths and Science, parents would be able to take responsibility for their childrens' education and the Welsh Government would no longer have to be held accountable.

MH said...

It would definitely not be a good idea for any government to "no longer have to be held accountable" for standards in education, Anon, and it can never be left entirely to parents to decide what their children should and shouldn't learn.

We, as a society, must determine the fundamental things we want all our children to learn through the governments we elect. However within that framework there's no reason why parents can't exercise choice.

Nor do I think there's an appropriate language in which to teach any particular subject (apart from languages themselves, of course). Maths and sciences can be taught equally well in Welsh, English, Swedish, French, Dutch ... or anything else.

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