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So once again we’re back at that thorny question: what should young people learn and how should they be taught it?

So once again we’re back at that thorny question: what should young people learn and how should they be taught it?

The current review of the National Curriculum states that:

It is the Government's intention that the National Curriculum be slimmed down so that it properly reflects the body of essential knowledge all children should learn and does not absorb the overwhelming majority of teaching time in schools. Individual schools should have greater freedom to construct their own programmes of study in subjects outside the National Curriculum and develop approaches to learning and study that complement it.

The aim is to provide a greater focus on subject content but also to leave teachers to decide how to teach this most effectively and to design a wider school curriculum that best meets the needs of their pupils.

It will be important to ensure that the right balance is struck between the prescription of content and the provision of greater freedom in terms of pedagogy. Also between the National Curriculum requirements and the wider school curriculum as determined by the school itself. However, how this will be fit with the subject focus of the EBacc remains to be seen.

In the 21st century what role should traditional academic subject areas play in education?  Innovation increasingly occurs where subjects or intellectual disciplines intersect. It is the inter-relationships of knowledge and practice which foster creative thinking and resultant innovation. So is specifying what subjects should be taught at what age and what information children should ‘know’ relevant for providing young people with the skills they will need as 21st century employees and citizens?

There is a danger that to focus on subjects and factual knowledge will continue the emphasis on rote learning as pedagogy and the regurgitation of ‘facts’ as education. Shouldn’t education be about fostering depth of understanding and the ability to extrapolate and apply knowledge to novel situations?

Why not implement a thematic approach to teaching and learning where students are enabled to understand and explore the connections between subject areas. The wider contextualisation and exploration of linkages between subjects not only creates a more fluid and dynamic curriculum but bolsters engagement. It allows young people to relate what is going on in school to their real lives.

Indeed isn’t a thematic, inter-disciplinary approach to education something to be desired, providing holism rather than fragmentation?

Don’t we need a future workforce able to understand and synthesize knowledge, indeed, that have been enabled to innovate?

We need to move beyond the boundaries of subject specific teaching and learning to provide young people with the skills they will need to be successful in the global knowledge economy.


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