Fake News: Government Did NOT Confirm All UK schoolchildren Must Learn Arabic Numerals (Only Now...)

Fact Check

  • by: Maarten Schenk
Fake News: Government Did NOT Confirm All UK schoolchildren Must Learn Arabic Numerals (Only Now...)

Is it true that UK schoolchildren are only now also required to learn Arabic numerals? In fact they have been learning and using them for centuries so any story you saw about the news that might have upset you was meant as satire and maybe also to prove how gullible and racist certain people are as soon as they hear the word "Arabic".

The story about UK schoolchilden was published on March 24, 2018 on the Southend News Network and was titled "Government confirms all UK schoolchildren must learn Arabic numerals" (archived here). It opened:

A spokesperson for the British government has confirmed that the National Curriculum includes the learning of Arabic numerals for all children from the age of three and up.

A Southend News Network investigation has also revealed that thousands of classrooms across the country have large displays that show the digits that children are now being forced to learn.

An Ofsted source said, 'Our guidelines make it perfectly clear.'

'In the interests of high standards of numeracy and cultural awareness, children of all ages must be familiar with the system of Arabic numerals from the earliest possible age.'

It also quotes a parent who is upset about the matter, one "David Fuch-Weet". If that name doesn't set off your satire alert then maybe the disclaimer on the website will. The Southend News Network is a satirical site pretending to be a news organisation by the English coast in Southend. They have a disclaimer on their about page that reads (in part):

Southend News Network was originally started in October 2015 with no real aims or objectives in mind other than to add a satirical/spoof-like touch to issues that people are passionate about in Southend On Sea. Above all else, SNN is all about having the occasional 'dig' at the powers that be, as well a slightly bigger and more frequent 'dig' at certain elements of local media!

Several of their stories have been mistaken for real news in the past and the site was recognized by the local authorities as an "official news outlet".

The "schoolchildren forced to learn Arabic numerals" hoax is not new. Recently an American satire site used it in a story titled "California Governor Signs Order To Use ARABIC Numerals In Public Schools" (archived version here) that went so viral in the end Fox News had to step up and debunk it:

No California law requiring students learn Arabic numbers

There is no law in California requiring students to use Arabic numbers in schools - because they already do. A post by the Last Line of Defense claimed Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law a requirement that students learn Arabic numerals. But California students, like others around the world, already use the Hindu-Arabic numeral system.

We found an even earlier version of the hoax on the website freedomnumerals.com, which was registered in 2016:

No more Arabic numerals! | Keep Arabic numerals out of our schools!

Dedicated to stopping the teaching of dangerous, extremist Arabic numerals to our children and upholding of American values in our schools.

Yes, the hoax goes back at least as far as MMXVI for those of you not familiar with Arabic numbers and who prefer to still write in the good, old Roman way...

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  Maarten Schenk

Maarten Schenk is the co-founder and COO/CTO of Lead Stories and an expert on fake news and hoax websites. He likes to go beyond just debunking trending fake news stories and is endlessly fascinated by the dazzling variety of psychological and technical tricks used by the people and networks who intentionally spread made-up things on the internet.

Read more about or contact Maarten Schenk

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