We live in a world of contradictions and uncertainty. Children have instant access to a world of knowledge around the clock yet their access is restricted in the very place you would expect it to be most readily encouraged. For many, school is still a place where you go to have your head filled with ‘certainties’, a core knowledge base which grows increasingly irrelevant to the world we live in. According to New Brunswick Department of Education, Canada, the top 10% of jobs last year didn’t exist in 2004! Is the best way to prepare our youngsters for this level of uncertainty to continue feeding them a diet of shallow learning experiences dictated by political presumption?
There is much discussion around what the curriculum should look like but one thing is clear, more of the same won’t lead to different results. Einstein stated the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results, we’re in danger of doing just that with the curriculum. While Geographers and Historians argue for their subject’s importance and Gove tries to convince the nation of the relevance of learning Latin and the need for the English Baccalaureate, those in education look on in disbelief as traditional themes and learning paths are revisited once more. As a nation we appear to be depserately trying to climb up the down escalator.
No one would argue against the need for every pupil to leave school literate and numerate but to function in an uncertain future society we also need to ensure all are resilient, resourceful, creative and able to adapt and change as required – a core set of skills that many are left to pick up by chance. Rather than leave these important learner qualities outside of the curriculum, it would mark a real shift and recognition of what children need if they were be placed at the heart of any reformed model. The problem is, such qualities are hard to measure and no goverment will be brave enough to release the stranglehold it has on the nation’s education system. As we prepare for ‘greater flexibility and freedom’ it is important to note that the current crude measures by which a school stands or falls are unlikely to disappear any time in the near future. Mick Waters makes a relevant and poignant observation about the impact of testing on learning:
‘One of the dangers is that the winning post of examinations has untold influence further back down the age range, so the real purpose of learning is lost in the quest for exam success. When children are only learning how to sit exams, other vital things are squeezed out.’
Our current national curriculum suffers from a lack of response to the changing world around us. Its compartmental approach to traditional subjects and exam fetish makes real, significant change unlikely.