Many young people embark upon a career at sea ill-equipped to cope with the academic rigours awaiting them at nautical college, especially in terms of tackling the level and type of mathematics required.!
Officer trainees presenting at college frequently struggle with maths, even though they may hold a good GCSE grade or even A Level in the subject (it‟s possible to secure a pass grade at GCSE level without being exposed to geometry, trigonometry or algebra).
The result is that career progression is hampered and they become personally dispirited. For colleges and sponsoring companies there‟s disruption and extra costs in providing „remedial‟ maths, sometimes on a one to one basis.Ratings seeking advancement to officer also face difficulties. The Marine Society administers a scholarship scheme, which offers financial and learning support to around 60 such seafarers annually. Many are adults who left formal learning many years ago; for some embarking upon formal study at college is a new experience.
A means was needed to determine the level of preparedness of a potential scholar to cope with nautical maths.
If the candidate was found to be wanting, then an additional means was required to provide up-skilling in the basics in preparation for college
The Marine Society, the world‟s most experienced seafarers‟ charity, came up with the concept of a combined testing tool and up-skilling programme in functional maths. Delivery is web-based, affording access to a global audience 24/7.
The maths content of the programme was developed by Coracle following discussion with nautical college staff currently involved in teaching seafarers. It was important that the pitch, tone and academic content was right. The e-learning platform was provided by CoracleOnline and the project went live in August 2011.
Feedback indicates that the resulting product is making a significant contribution to the lives of many seafarers. Key to its success is its direct relevance to the maths which underpins studies at nautical college today; its easy accessibility and user-friendly style; and the fact that the whole programme has been marine contextualised.
So the language of the programme and all the examples are nautically flavoured, thus making them familiar and relevant to nautical learners. This helps to ensure those returning to learning after perhaps a protracted absence are made to feel comfortable.
Evidence shows that lack of self-confidence, particularly as far as tackling Maths is concerned, can be a formidable barrier to career progression for seafarers. Helping to overcome this represents a major contribution to personal well-being and professional development.
Whilst designed principally to test and up-skill in functional maths to about Level 2, the programme is finding favour with many throughout the maritime sector who are embarking upon professional studies. Many individuals use it as a refresher course as a means to achieving their goals. It‟s also proving popular with ship operators and crew manning agencies. Maersk, for example, is using it routinely with applicants for cadetships.
For industry endorsements and learner feedback please refer to the video carried on the home page of the project at http://www.mathsatsea.com