Ruth (squigglyruth) wrote,

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Problems in the proposed National Curriculum

My initial thoughts on the newly proposed National Curriculum. This is currently in consultation, with a view to introducing it from September 2014.

I'm not wholly negative about all aspects of the proposed curriculum. Much of it matches what we do anyway, and I think the inclusion of evolution in primary science has got to be a good thing. The curriculum as a whole is not a patch on the one that Labour were about to introduce when the government changed. But parts of it are functional.

However, there are also some really really bad bits. You'll find them eventually if you look through it all, but bear in mind its a 221-page document. Here are some issues I spotted:

The proposed history curriculum in KS1-KS3 is confined to a very limited understanding of the history of the UK, with no global history except the Roman Empire, and no appreciation of the multicultural nature of British society. The concepts discussed in the aims, such as an understanding of what is meant by 'peasantry', are outmoded and promote a very conservative understanding of British society. There is no requirement or opportunity to learn about the lives of normal people in the past, and far too much factual learning about what happened in parliament and what the monarchy did. The requirement for chronological teaching means that children in primary schools will not learn about anything more recent than the 'Glorious Revolution' in 1688. This means they cannot relate their learning to their family history in any meaningful way. The overall result will be to make history a dry, boring subject that puts children off learning about the past and that also promotes a distorted understanding of British and World history. It is not fit for purpose in our current British society, nor for preparing our children to be citizens of the world.

The removal of citizenship from the primary curriculum will leave our children less prepared to voice their opinions and take part in local decision-making processes. This seems likely to disproportionately affect children from disadvantaged backgrounds and marginalised groups within society. For an inclusive society, it is vital that from an early age every child learns that their voice and opinions matter, and how they can make a difference when they care about an issue.

In the proposed mathematics curriculum, traditional 'efficient' column methods and short and long division will be introduced too early. This goes against much of the evidence on what constitutes successful mathematics teaching. Our current calculation curriculum, which is evidence-based, emphasises flexibility in methods, learning and discussing the advantages of multiple methods, and understanding what you are doing. When children are taught column methods too early, they apply them without understanding, find it harder to see when to use them to solve problems, and tend to think of maths as following a set procedure - none of which will equip them to become mathematicians in the future! Our mathematics curriculum is working at the moment but the proposed changes would take it backwards 30 years.

Those are just my initial thoughts, based on a first reading. There is definitely also an issue in the emphasis on core subjects, coupled with the reduction in requirements for art and music, and in the removal of personal, social and health education. I'm not sure yet what I think about the teaching of 'computing' (pp.152-153) - beyond wondering how we're meant to teach 5-year-olds to 'understand what algorithms are'. It could prove fun, but it seems wrong to relegate computer graphics, music, spreadsheets, word-processing, animation, publishing, and slideshows all to one subsection of one objective, with no specific requirement to teach any of them, whilst giving three detailed objectives for programming at each key stage. Surely we want to provide opportunities for budding animators, musicians, artists and editors as well as for programmers?

I would be interested to here others' thoughts on any of these issues. I will be filling in a consultation form (the e-consultation system is apparently temporarily offline owing to 'technical difficulties'). If you care about the future of education in our country, please fill one in too. Even if you just comment in box 3 about whichever subject(s) above you care about, the fact that you respond could make a difference. You should probably also tick 'disagree' in number 13, and you might want to comment about the consultation form's ease of use in question 15...

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