So, yet again, the debate about curriculum is in the headlines. This debate is one that is always in the news in one form or other and will probably never go away.
There is one fundamental problem with curriculum. How on earth can we decide today what our children will need to know in the future? We have no concept of the technology that will be available to them. We also have no comprehension of the problems they will face. How can we define today the essential knowledge for tomorrow?
We are far from anti-curriculum. The concept of a universal framework to guide teachers and provide consistency is, on the face of it, a positive thing. What does need to be incorporated however, is a focus on how to think creatively, research, solve problems and how to be adaptable. Children need to be given opportunities to develop leadership skills, learn to communicate and how to form relationships. Any curriculum that overlooks these essential skills for life, does so at the peril of our future society.
Although rote learning does play a part in building the confidence of those who are able to regurgitate these facts, who should decide which facts are important or otherwise? The students in our schools only have a limited number of hours each day to absorb knowledge, so how do we sort the essential from the non essential and who should have the power to do this? Does anyone actually have the right to make this decision on behalf of our children?
There is a saying about addressing poverty. It goes something like ‘If you give a man a fish he can feed his family for a day but if you teach him how to hunt he can feed his family for life’. Surely the same applies to learning. You can focus on teaching a class of children facts in the hope that you are teaching them the right ones, or you can give them the skills to research any topic they need to.
Far more resources are available to our children than ever before. They already have access to more knowledge in a matter of seconds than was ever available when we were children. They have apps on their phone that translate what they say into any language, they have access to networks that can give them specialist advice and guidance about any topic that they need to find out about. Not all of this is good, the perils of the internet are a matter for separate discussion, but it is a fact of modern society and it won’t be going away.
We need to focus on learning. Good quality teachers are essential, but if the focus is purely on teaching we are missing the point, which is surely about learning. A confident learner needs to be able to stand on his own two feet, to adapt to the circumstances he or she finds themselves in and find answers to problems – those of today and those of tomorrow.
Let us stop trying to write a curriculum for the unknown. One thing is for sure – one day our children will face an issue that today’s knowledge cannot solve. We need to make sure that our children have the skills they need to overcome this unknown entity – for all of our sakes.