For over a century, the introduction of metric measures in the UK was linked to that of decimal currency. But then, while we were saying farewell to £sd, the situation changed. We follow the story and draw an unsurprising conclusion.
The fuss about measurement units at the start of this century has overshadowed progress thirty years earlier in education, science and engineering. We look at the benefits that were predicted at the start of the transition to SI and ask if they have been delivered.
Recently, one of our readers wrote to his MP about the UK’s measurement muddle. He received a reply from the office of the Minister for Universities and Science, David Willetts MP, who has responsibility for measurement standards in the UK. This reply confirms that the Government has no plan to reduce the current mixture of units in common use in the UK or to promote a single system of measurement for all purposes.
One of our regular contributors, John Frewen-Lord, observes that the beauty and value of the built-in simplicity and coherence of the metric system is not being learned by the UK population despite forty years of teaching.
I am motivated to write this article because, in the past, I have come across supporters of metrication, some of whom with teaching experience, who say that only decimals should be taught rather than both fractions and decimals in elementary mathematics in school.
The UK Metric Association has issued the following press release:
A recent report published in the US suggests that the UK Government’s plans to boost science and engineering may be undermined by its muddled policies on measurement units.
One of our regular readers, John Frewen-Lord, a quantity surveyor, has attempted to answer this question. In this article J F-L refers to the junior Education Minister’s suggestion that there would be more teaching of imperial units in the future school curriculum (subsequently played down by Department officials as “no significant change”).
UKMA regards the Minister’s suggestion as a political stunt to appease Eurosceptic critics (not that it has anything to do with “Europe”). It has still to be formally consulted upon and is unlikely to get any further. Nevertheless, John’s analysis is a useful demonstration of the order of possible costs of the DfT’s obstinate refusal to join the rest of the world and permit metric units on the UK’s road signs. This is what he wrote: