I'm not familiar enough with the GCSE and A-level curriculum to know whether this is a fair criticism. If it is true, is it the curriculum itself which is to blame, or only the teaching methods commonly used to prepare young people for the exams?
I certainly don't disagree with you because up until now, I don't think my lack of knowledge in Maths has held me back. Why do you consider art more important? I am interested. It was suggested that dd would be good at maths as she is good at music, but she is only average really. I thought she may be more creative, but art, once again about average.
Even now (mid 2013), this continues to be a problem in many countries, not just the UK.
I believe that society should support two kinds of people with respect to mathematical abilities. (And of course the spectrum in between). First of all there are those who have exceptional mathematical abilities and insight, and can think in highly abstract terms. These are the people who advance the various sub-fields of maths, and science, and other disciples that are dependent on maths. They are very valuable individuals, and should be identified and promoted by the government and academic institutions of the nation.
On the other hand, there are many talented people, who do not have a similar aptitude or passion for maths. But these people may be perfectly suited to operate in advanced skills jobs, for which an education comprising partially of maths might be required. How do we support this type of person? Recently, there are websites coming on line that provide automated support to help anyone break apart mathematics into digestible, easily understood chunks, and to help reveal patterns that are used over and over to solve certain kinds of problems. An example is the Exdraft mathematics website www.exdraft.com This kind of website could help people achieve success in maths without necessarily becoming experts.
Some students use traditional methods (lectures, textbooks, pencil and paper) to discover these patterns on their own, but many others do not. Why not help people along? We have the technology now to make this commonplace.
Not everyone who drives a car needs to be an automotive engineer.
Not everyone who wants to find answers needs to be a researcher; Google helps them get the job done quickly.
And similarly, not everyone who needs to do a science/mathematics course or work in a cutting-edge field, needs to be a mathematician.
Couldn't we use different approaches to support different kinds of people?