Low Year 12 maths literacy could impact all financial sectors

Thursday 5th August 2021 Penny Pryor

The number of students studying higher-level maths in year 12 is at one of its lowest levels ever, which will have huge impacts on Australian society, according to the Actuaries Institute of Australia.

Just 20.5 per cent of Year 12 students study intermediate maths and 10.1 per cent study higher-level maths.

“Of great concern is the disparity between males and females: only approximately 7 per cent of Australian female students in Year 12 study higher maths subjects, compared with around 12 per cent for males,” the Actuaries Institute of Australia's research note Where have all the higher maths students gone? stated.

The note also highlighted a study from Flinders University, which found STEM-qualified managers earn 10 per cent more, and for those in roles classified as “non-STEM”, the pay premium can be as high as 13 per cent. Maths and other STEM skills are only going to increase in demand as data analytics, technology, the digital economy, and financial markets expand.

The Actuaries Institute says that falling interest in maths studies will have an adverse impact on its profession and society as a whole.

It will also have an impact on the financial services sector and funds management where a strong understanding of maths and statistics is essential for success.

In Australia maths subjects are not compulsory in Year 12 in NSW, the ACT and Victoria.

And the Actuaries Institute also suggests that the reason for the lack of interest by students to voluntarily take up higher-level maths may be the perceived difficulty and the lack of their willingness to persevere in a subject where they need to make mistakes to achieve fluency.

The Actuaries Institute is called for change and will develop a policy position statement with Institute members to call on state and federal governments to review public policy to affect change

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