Behind the scenes in the department of education has been studying the curriculum used in the world’s leading educational systems. These include Finland, Hong Kong and Singapore, which have long been the focus of UK educationalists as they have been moving steadily ahead with the quality of their schooling. It is encouraging on one hand to see that the UK is recognising the depleted relevance of the UK but a concern that it has taken so long to achieve. Even David Cameron’s bold announcement that this these changes are “a revolution in education” has already received a rebuff by school leaders concerned the new curriculum to be introduced in 2014 makes still not be fit for the 21st century.
This is the third attempt by Mike Michael Gove, Secretary of State for education, who has been heavily criticised over these the first two attempts at introducing the new curriculum. Although developed by the Department of Education it would seem that there is a huge miss-fit between the output from this department and what is seen as practical by the teaching resources destined to implement the changes. The logical approach that assumed the Department of Education would liaise with the frontline troops to develop a system that would work seems to have been completely overlooked. This has resulted in significant delays and needless conflict as the rejected curriculum is then reworked. Rather like sending an essay back to be rewritten as the authors have have missed the point!
The new curriculum will introduce significant changes to maths, history, geography, English and science. It will also place renewed emphasis on design and technology, now seen as a critical strength that will make employment more feasible in the future. This subject area has ebbed and flowed in prominence over the years but now destined to capture one key element of the British psyche; that of our ability to design superb products. Regrettably these may well be manufactured overseas but we could still capitalise on a recognised international skill in design and innovation.
Whilst the new curriculum is designed to improve our educational system it only applies to state schools. Free schools and academies that are able to set their own curriculum will not adopt the new syllabus. This apparent gap in the logic of the Department of Education is yet to be tested. If the government see the curriculum changes as fundamental to close the gap on overseas educational standards it would seem odd to exclude the academies from this activity. Alternatively if the initiative fails the academies will have been spared the retrograde step. Time will tell. But this fragmented approach to schooling standards does imply some muddled policy behind the scenes.
The need to fix something is paramount. We have long suffered the annual concern over exam standards and can only look forward to the onslaught that is bound to emerge as the summer exam results are published. Our teaching repsurces than have a year to prepare to the next wave of curriculum changes. The results of these changes won’t be known for five years; long after the government may have been replaced.