In an effort to combat innumeracy prime minister Rishi Sunak recently proposed compulsory maths until the age of 18 in England.

Weirdly enough "should *insert subject* be compulsory until 18" was actually an essay topic in one of my Spanish exams, and I'm just relieved I get to speak about this in English without sweating through my blazer worrying about conjugations and noun agreements.

I’ll start by acknowledging that as education is devolved to the control of the Scottish Government, and it’s been a wee while since I was at high school, this discussion is purely academic, however I think it’s an important conversation.

I’ll get a few cheeky wee disclaimers out of the way first of all: I don’t hate maths, it’s a wonderful, useful subject that I’m sure brings many people joy every day.

I’m not going to say ‘I never use maths’ because, in truth, I use it all the time. I’m grateful to my maths teachers for persevering with me, and I’m proud of myself for persevering with maths for as long as I could.

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I’m also not a fan of the whole Arts versus STEM (Science, Tech, Engineering, Maths) debate, as they are both valid, and have a place within our society.

I think giving all students the option to continue studying maths as long as they’d like to is a great idea and would love to see fairer conditions and compensation given to teachers for their diligence and dedication to learning.

The last few years of high school represent a transitional period for students: leaving the protective, and occasionally restrictive structure of the school environment can represent a jarring juxtaposition of freedom and responsibility.

Introducing the choice to elect subjects, and the responsibility that comes with it helps to prepare young learners for the increased level of input that they will have over their future, whether it be in the working world or through further education.

Placing a focus on compulsory maths, above all other subjects whether intentionally or otherwise, positions it as the most important aspect of one’s academic career.

The argument that a higher level of maths will make people more employable is an interesting one, considering those pursuing careers within which maths is a key element might already be electing to study it, and those who don't will be doing so because it's neither wanted nor needed.

HeraldScotland: Rishi SunakRishi Sunak (Image: free)

For a number of students, such as those who have dyscalculia or who face other barriers to their learning, additional qualifications in maths would represent an insurmountable challenge which would impact their mental health and ability to perform well at other subjects.

Many careers do not actually require a high mathematical aptitude, in fact the majority of careers might benefit more from the communication and literacy skills acquired through studying a language. A STEM career is no more worthy of respect than any other and while employability is a crucial factor to consider, is not the only reason to pursue an education in a particular field.

People shouldn’t need to wax lyrical about the value of the arts in order for them to be respected or taken seriously, whether it’s watching films and TV shows, listening to music, reading books or even this column, we all consume the product of creative fields.

These things cannot continue to be provided for consumption without nurturing the interests of individual students. A whole host of careers are dependent upon careful study and honing of crafts in a combination of fields, which starts with young learners and their passion.

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There is often a misguided assumption that achievement in STEM subjects comes from hard work and diligence, while attainment in the arts or creative fields happens as a result of talent, or natural aptitude.

Nobody wakes up with an inherent ability to do anything other than try, and it is only through nurturing the passions and interests of students, and not forcing them to do subjects they do not have any interest in, that they reach their fullest potential.

Maths is wonderful, it serves as an educational bridge to other subjects and provides an opportunity for young learners to develop and enhance many transferable skills. Insert any other subject into that sentence and the sentiment remains true.

Every subject has value, whether it's the problem solving and analytical mindset developed through maths or science, communication skills taught in a language class, the critical thinking of philosophy or religious education, lifelong practical skills learned through home economics and PE, or creative abilities developed in art, music, or drama.

Education should be both holistic in order to develop a balanced and well-rounded student, and bespoke past a certain point, in order to cater to the needs and passions of each individual learner.

Had maths been compulsory till age 18, it would've occupied limited space on my timetable, precluding me from taking subjects I both wanted, and needed to study in preparation for my chosen course at university.

I, like many others, tailored my education around my strengths and interests, it was balanced, but favoured things I wanted to learn and pursue after high school, with the goal of hopefully securing a job in a related field.

I was given the choice in fifth year to do either maths or Spanish, pursuant to timetabling availability. I had no interest in maths and had really struggled the year before and it had, through no fault of my teacher made me incredibly anxious to the point where I dreaded each class.

I had always loved languages (I'd had great fun with French), so I took a risk and crashed a Spanish higher a year early. Immediately, the stress and anxiety I'd felt trying to force myself into maths revision melted away, I enjoyed learning again and quickly made up for lost time, eventually going on to somehow get my degree in Spanish language and literature.

I'm not saying we should make Spanish, music, or any subject compulsory until 18, quite the opposite.

We should provide each our young learners with the opportunity to benefit from a balanced curriculum of subjects taught in an engaging way, and once they have developed their goals for the future, trust them enough to make their own choices as to what they'd like to pursue.

We need to nurture young learners, including budding mathematicians, and ensure that they receive the best quality tuition possible.

Passions cannot, and should not, be prescribed