Symposium on the Occasion
of the 100th Anniversary of ICMI

(Rome, 5–8 March 2008)


Centres and peripheries in mathematics education

Bienvenido F. Nebres, S.J. (Ateneo de Manila University)

The paper looks at the impact of ICMI on East-Southeast Asian mathematics education and on mathematics education in developing countries in general. For Southeast Asia, this began in the 1970s at the invitation of Prof. Yukiyosi Kawada, then Secretary of ICMI. It led to a burst of mathematics education activity in Southeast Asia. With the opening of China after the Cultural Revolution, mathematics education activities under the sponsorship of ICMI also grew rapidly among the so-called Confucian Heritage Cultures. The International Congresses on Mathematical Education (ICME) also became a forum for mathematics educators from developing countries to share experience and research on their concerns: ethnomathematics, mathematics for all, mathematics, society and culture.

The second part of the paper looks at possible lessons for the center coming from the periphery. In particular, it looks at several decades of major projects to improve mathematics education in the Philippines. It notes that the usual interventions coming from developed (OECD) countries, supported by international development agencies, have not worked. What has begun to work in the last decade have been interventions that begin with the social and cultural context (engaging the leadership, community and culture), provide interventions targeted at the actual situation and priorities of the particular group of schools, and set goals and metrics for which the leadership and community accept responsibility.

Bienvenido Nebres (Philippines); reactor: Gelsa Knijnik (Brazil)