We need a curriculum that will engage the emotions as well as the intellect

The biggest issue in Education has got to be the large percentage of children still being failed by the system.

We need a curriculum that will engage the emotions as well as the intellect

[This is a blog from the archive site] The biggest issue in Education has got to be the large percentage of children still being failed by the system. This is evidenced by the numbers of children who emerge after more than a decade of 'Education' without even the basic skills in literacy and numeracy.

When Michael Gove announced that the National Curriculum was to undergo yet another review there were probably few people who disagreed him regarding the necessity for this.

Research has shown that children from disadvantaged backgrounds are five times more likely to fail academically than their peers and children with Special Educational Needs (SEN) are four times more likely not to achieve 5 or more A*-Cs at GCSE.

It is obvious that changes need to be made to address this achievement gap. A positive change already being addressed is the focus on the underachievement of SEND pupils. The Lamb Inquiry identified the urgent need to review the current system, recognising that many parents had simply lost faith in the system to provide adequate provision for their children's needs. A very successful pilot project called 'Achievement for All' is being implemented nationwide to improve outcomes for these children. It will focus on offering more 'support' and having greater 'aspirations' for these children.

The National Curriculum was introduced following The Education Reform Act 1988 with the aim of offering a 'broad and balanced' curriculum for all. So it would be reasonable to expect that any changes being introduced would maintain this vision. This is where the issue lies and the disagreements begin. The changes Gove initiated intend to narrow the curriculum instead of broadening it. Currently there are 12 core subjects in the National Curriculum and it almost certain some of these will be removed from the core group to shift the focus to the more 'academic' subjects. Art and design is already being cited as a casualty by schools under pressure to offer subjects at GCSE that will allow students to achieve the English baccalaureate. Drama will undoubtedly be removed from many GCSE option blocks and replaced with a language or humanity choice.

League tables have already been published measuring a schools' success in terms of the number of students who achieved a good GCSE in the subjects necessary for the English Bacc qualification. The English Baccalaureate as it is proposed is contrary to the spirit of "Baccalaureate". The term itself refers to study in a wide range of subjects, as can be seen in the International Baccalaureate, which contains both an arts component and a technology component and it seems ludicrous that the English Baccalaureate omits these two vital areas of study!

The 'Achievement for All ' programme will hopefully address the needs of SEND pupils but that still leaves the large percentage of underachievers from largely disadvantaged backgrounds. What about their entitlement to a broad and balanced curriculum? I fail to see how shuffling the core subjects around, yet again, will result in real academic reform or better outcomes for these children. How will these changes result in broad and balanced learning experiences that produce independent learners who have skills that are transferable for further study, the work place and for life?

The coalition government is intent on introducing a curriculum where students gather facts. I thought we already had that?

What is schooling for? Should it be concerned with the whole person as an intellectual being but also as a physical, spiritual and moral being? Or should it be concerned with the acquisition of a narrow range of knowledge and skills evidenced in the written word mostly through written exams?

Where does it mention creativity, communication skills, learning and thinking skills? These are skills that a student can take into an unpredictable world and adapt to new situations.

When Michael Gove was Education Secretary he mentioned that all students would achieve 'profound' learning in science and maths. If he was truly aware of how 'profound learning' occurs, he would have known that it only happens when we make learning meaningful and personal- when we engage with the content. He would have been aware of the importance of an arts curriculum and a drama education in particular to nurture these qualities in a young person.

If the current coalition was truly interested in ensuring that deep or profound learning opportunities exist for all children, the debate would not be whether to teach geography or Art and design. Instead would be asking why is it that so many of our young people are not engaging with the curriculum.

We would be discussing how to nurture creativity and enhance communication skills as well as how to develop learning and thinking skills? We would be striving to put in place an education system that produces life-long learners who are equipped to live in this unpredictable world. We need a curriculum that will engage the emotions as well as the intellect.

The current system teaches to exams and as such those who are successful are able to memorise huge chunks of information and regurgitate it in the written form. It seems to me that the revised National Curriculum will produce more of the same!


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