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What would you put in the curriculum?

(69 Posts)
Penstemmon Mon 14-Apr-14 19:12:17

Do you think that the time has gone when students need to learn much more than basic skills and how to use the internet? Do we need to support and challenge intellectual thinking anymore?

In the past education was felt to be important for its own sake. Students studied classical art, 'great' literature, astronomy, religion, sciences etc etc. Over time it seems that what we expect young people to know about and understand via school/ college/uni is different. Does that matter at all? The world is a different place now so maybe as long as the future generations have the skills to access information they don't need to to know about literature, art, history etc? After all we need people to be fit for the work place not to talk about Jane Austen, Chaucer or know what king ruled at what time!

Accepting that we want all kids to be able to read and write and be numerate what else would you put in a curriculum?

FlicketyB Mon 14-Apr-14 19:24:37

All the usual subjects that tell us about the world around us, geography, history, all the sciences, foreign languages

To be able to use the internet efficiently you need to have a background knowledge of the world around you to know how to know what to look for online, how to search and how to assess the reliability of the information you retrieve.

There was an earlier blog on Gransnet where someone was asserting what, in this thread, is a question. The example I gave then, bears repetition.

You look up information about an old building in London. It says it was burnt down in 1666 and rebuilt. Unless you know there was a great fire in London in the mid 17th century, even if you do not know the exact date, you will probably not realise that the original building was burnt down in the Great Fire of London, 1666. That could be a deeply significant fact that unless you had the background you would not realise.

MiceElf Mon 14-Apr-14 19:41:08

What an interesting question.

I often think it doesn't really matter what 'subjects' are studied - or not, as the case may be, but about getting children to become fascinated with the world around them. The built and natural environment and most importantly, the people. If they get out there and work collaboratively and cooperatively, using research skills and presentational skills there would not be the need for rigid and stifling curricula from on high.

Those presentational skills would of course require the incorporation of music, art and drama.

mcem Mon 14-Apr-14 20:34:33

In addition to basic literacy , numeracy, social sciences at primary level I'd include much more emphasis on problem-solving skills and not just in a mathematical context. The ability to pull together relevant facts and reach a conclusion. Logical thinking. Listening, reflecting and expressing a considered opinion. And I'd start as young as possible. I spent time on these activities with upper primary pupils but it wasn't an integral part of the curriculum. When they had finished set work and had time to choose supplementary activities these groups/worksheets were very popular. There was a short-lived attempt to include philosophy in schools but I think the idea frightened some heads and teachers and the idea fizzled out. Pity really as it was all about the above activities. I'd ditch design and technology in primary scools.

BAnanas Mon 14-Apr-14 21:04:52

My comments are not so much about the curriculum but more a comment on how I would like to see more of an effort in meeting the needs of boys. I have sons and in retrospect both they and a number of their male peers felt that the state education system is weighted in favour of girls. I can't comment on the private sector, I imagine maybe it's not as feminised, possibly you have to be the mother of sons for my comments to resonate. As far as my boys' primary education was concerned there were a woeful lack of male teachers and unfortunately we had several women teachers who didn't disguise the fact that they didn't really like dealing with boys they just found them too boisterous and overtly favoured the girls.

As far as the curriculum is concerned, The teaching of maths in primaries seems to be really lacking flitting about all the time, a couple of days on fractions say, before moving on to another topic without any consolidation, resulting in many not mastering the basics. The majority of parents at my childrens', well above average comprehensive had to employ a private tutor for GCSE maths. I don't think we can ignore employers when they say basic numeracy is a problem with employees these days.

I think over and above what is on offer in the curriculum, there seems to be a need for pupils to express themselves fluently in their own language without recourse to the perpetual "I was like" so opportunities for speaking and debate would be good.

General knowledge, particularly geography I'm constantly amazed that young people seem to have no idea where anywhere is these days.

Clearly there is a massive need to try to convey to young people today what a pernicious effect pornography is having on their lives. Wish we could turn the clock back on that one and stuff the Genie back in the bottle and it must be really hard for schools when they are faced with such a tidal wave.

hespian Mon 14-Apr-14 21:06:43

I have never understood why keyboard skills (qwerty) are not included as we all use them more and more in our everyday lives.

BAnanas Mon 14-Apr-14 21:09:15

mcem Really agree about Design and Technology, it was a mandatory subject when my children were at school, I think it should have been an option that could have been ditched if the pupil didn't want to pursue it, I remember both my kids spending a whole term as late as year 8, wasting time farting about with textiles, not remotely interested. Complete waste of time!

Mishap Mon 14-Apr-14 21:17:08

Arts and music as central to the curriculum and not add-ons. These are what help us to understand what it is to be human - and their practice teaches us the most important thing of all - how to co-operate and get along with others. I get so frustrated when these are bottom of the list of priorities.

Penstemmon Mon 14-Apr-14 22:38:03

Interesting perspective on D&T. It was introduced into the NC I think because of pressure from industry/business , a development from 'woodwork' so students could work with a wider range of materials more suited to work environments.

Anyone giving a vote to sex and relationship / parenting skills classes???

mcem Mon 14-Apr-14 23:00:07

I am all in favour of the different aspects of D&T in secondary but it was so contrived in primary. Children simply didn't know how/where to start with designing and building a battery-operated car. Some really enjoyed the exercise but had to be led through each step. Leave it until a bit older and far less problem. Ever tried to teach 33 children to knit with just 2 adults - and at times only one adult could knit!
A footnote about teaching boys or girls. I found 10year-old boys could be unco-operative and bolshie but were generally quite straightforward while girls who fell out with each other could be downright wicked! A sweeping generalisation I admit but so often true.

janerowena Mon 14-Apr-14 23:10:19

I think we need to go back to how we used to be taught at primary school, with more focus on the basics.

After that, I think we do have to diversify simply to keep up with other countries in the global job markets. However, rather than have teachers pushing you into taking subjects simply because you did well in tests, I really believe that you should be able to learn about what interests you, but still continue to be taught maths and English as compulsory subjects.

seasider Mon 14-Apr-14 23:47:41

We had knitting and sewing etc 40 years ago but not sure if the boys did it as well. I think a good rounded education is best including art, music and design. Lots more sport too particularly team sports which seem to have dwindled with the sell off of playing fields. Lessons in personal finance and budgeting. Teachers need to be given the freedom to teach and inspire rather than just giving the information necessary to pass exams. On the point of exams my 14 year old stepdaughter,who is an average pupil, has just taken her GCSE French exam to give them more time for other subjects next year. If an average pupil can pass the exam a year early what level can it be?

Iam64 Tue 15-Apr-14 08:30:42

Art, drama, music, literature. Start in primary school and continue throughout education to teach in ways that helps people develop an understanding of the social and political context of art etc

HollyDaze Tue 15-Apr-14 08:55:31

mcem - your posts are spot-on in my opinion.

My youngest granddaughter wants to become a psychiatrist but on the Island, there are no classes at the schools or the College for philosophy or psychology (sociology is available though) which I find strange - from your post, it would seem the same is true in the UK. I wonder why?

mcem Tue 15-Apr-14 09:00:09

Holly my focus was really on scottish primary schools but I am aware that some local secondaries do offer psychology, philosophy and sociology at Higher level. There are changes afoot in our curricula too so I'm not sure how these subjects will be affected.

MargaretX Tue 15-Apr-14 10:46:35

Children only get a large vocabulary through extensive reading and writing.
A large vocabulary is like ladder for the intellect to climb up. The better your grammar the more logically you think. Then your life plan becomes more realistic and therefore more likely to be successful.
Reading Jane Austin is not for talking about Jane Austin afterwards but training the brain to follow long sentences and to get rythms of speech which make the difference to how people express themselves.

People who don't know even the basics of their own history just cannot make good impression on others.

I think less computer in schools amd more debating and communication skills.

BAnanas Tue 15-Apr-14 11:44:55

MargaretX, I agree. My four year old granddaughter's nursery have IPads for the whole class, I would question not only the cost, but the wisdom of that. Clearly technology pushes everything along constantly but the basics must be mastered.

If some can only ever write and read in text talk, it will render many works of literature incomprehensible to them. I feel sad for people who never read books, in my opinion they are missing out on a great pleasure in life. I guess we are all products of our generation and books were what many of us turned to when we were growing up. I get the impression some of the younger generation cannot live without a screen of some sort, or background noise and crave constant immediate visual stimulation. Books teach us to use our own imaginations there really isn't a substitute for that.

gratefulgran54 Tue 15-Apr-14 19:20:10

Just to throw this open a bit wider, what do people think about special needs schools. I have worked in one for 4 years now, and find that having to follow the National Curriculum is leaving many children without the knowledge they actually need, such as life skills, learning to care for themselves (dressing/undressing/eating etc), being as independent as they can possibly be, even if their future is full-time support.
Surely it is time that special needs education had it's own curriculum that is more biased towards building confidence and independence, or at least being as independent as possible.
Obviously there is a place for reading/writing etc., but what about the children with an active mind but non-verbal....should we not be teaching them ways to communicate, and ways to explore/expand their world, or simply to ask for the toilet effectively. Yes, we do these things anyway, as best we can, but when you're trying to hit your 'targets' and show their progression in maths etc on paper, we are not giving enough time to what they really need to help them to help themselves to the best of their ability. And, to be honest, would this also not help the parents as well?
Maybe I'm barking up the wrong tree, but I see some of our kids, and think, what does it matter if you can count to ten or not, you'll never be in a situation where you would need to, but if you could learn to brush your hair, eat correctly with a knife and fork, or even make a cup of tea for your mum, how proud would that Mum be, and how good for your self-esteem would that be?

Mishap Tue 15-Apr-14 20:15:11

A special needs school that I used to visit, where all the young people were extremely intellectually and physically disabled, had to teach French to all the pupils. If they wished to get a pupil exempted from this, they had to go through a complicated process of proving that the pupil would not be able to grasp what was going on.

Those that failed to get exemption must have been very confused - it had taken them over a decade to work out that a cup is called a cup, and suddenly it is a tasse. Bonkers! I suspect that some sort of PC agenda was being pursued, which bore no relation to their real needs.

Much more sense to concentrate on basic life skills and arts and music in this setting.

rosequartz Tue 15-Apr-14 20:36:16

I would take OUT compulsory Welsh up to and including GCSE for all children living in Wales.

I would make it an optional subject, as I have no wish to see the language die out. However, it would be preferable to offer Spanish or Mandarin in my opinion.

rosequartz Tue 15-Apr-14 20:37:08

I think iPads can make children irritable and bad-tempered. They are addictive unless rationed very carefully.

mcem Tue 15-Apr-14 20:51:18

Gratefulgran54 - yours is exactly the kind of informed and heartfelt comment that the powers that be should heed. From someone with the best interests of the children and their families at heart, and who actually knows what she's talking about! So no chance they'll listen then.

rosequartz Tue 15-Apr-14 20:57:36

Gratefulgran54 and Mishap: whoever makes these decisions has no experience of the reality of life for the children and their parents/carers.
DD2 worked in a special needs unit at a primary school for a while and found some of the targets just unrealistic and ludicrous.

goldengirl Tue 15-Apr-14 21:31:53

I think personal finance and budgeting would be useful. Cooking and all that entails. Swimming - I can't believe the number of adults I've met who can't swim and its not just recreational it could save a life which brings me to First Aid - vital that we should all have basic competency in the subject and learning to drive and understand the vehicle you're driving ie what's under the bonnet!

Crumbs there'd hardly be any time for the all important 3 Rs, languages and science in 'my' school but at least the children would have an idea of coping in the world.

JessM Wed 16-Apr-14 07:27:17

Very interesting question - and great ideas. Blank sheet of paper.... a curriculum for the 21st C... When I was a teacher in the last century we had to teach "how to wire a plug" - who does that these days?
Reading - make it fun not formulaic. Scandal that primary schools are sending illiterate kids on to secondary where they can only flounder. Top priority for primaries. Classic literature optional only from 14+ Enjoyable books and good critical reading skills are the important things.
Maths - make it fun. Quality and motivation is important not the quantity and tick box of skills. Most kids seem to be turned off it at an early age. Make it relevant to real life in the early stages. Statistics probably more important than trigonometry for most kids (what does "up to 50% off mean"... hmm). We are currently in a position that there is a shortage of able mathematicians at postgrad level. How did that happen...?
Science - emphasis on questioning, thinking skills, how science works - so that people can critically evaluate information on climate change, diet etc We are not generating enough scientists in this country. Go to any postgrad research department - there will be lots of non brits there from Europe and other parts of the world.
Humanities - how the world works. More questioning and critical thinking.

Technology - again we are not producing anything like enough computer scientists in this country. Having to import many thousands every year (mainly from India where they over-produce software people) to keep the software industry going. Doh. Teach computer programming from an early age. Don't put the girls off!
Then there are practical subjects:
First aid - how to do emergency first aid.
How to cook - healthy cheap meals not cakes
Parenting and sex education
Personal finance and how business works
Self management - understanding emotions, how to keep your body fit, how to relax and calm yourself down. No compulsory ball games.