Children going back to school will be learning with a new curriculum that according to the Prime Minister is “rigorous, engaging and tough” (see BBC report)
But I’m worried, after looking at some of the components,whether it is more likely to put children off learning than it is to engage them.
It may also be a contributory factor in growing numbers of parents deciding to abandon schools and home educate. For the curriculum has become so prescriptive that parents feel it destroys the children’s innate curiosity and desire to learn.
As an example take Year 4 children, aged 8 – 9, learning English. What they need is to be able to use our language to communicate well so they can build relationships with others, express themselves, speak, write and read effectively.
But learning to label parts of the language as ‘determiner’, ‘possessive pronoun’ or ‘adverbial’ (as per the new curriculum), is not going enhance that process at all.
Do you understand what those are? And is knowing that useful when you’re composing an email or writing an essay? I suspect not. Instead we focus on getting our points across and communicating what we want to say. We focus on using language not dissecting it.
And that’s what children need to be doing. They need to be using language, learning how and what to say not what it’s called! To know what it’s called is just academic. To know how to use it is what’s important.
The worry is that a curriculum like this, which is so far removed from children’s everyday lives, is going to put them off learning. They will not see the relevance. Very few of them will be interested in something so academic so young. Rather than be engaging, it will switch them off the idea of learning anything.
The really sad thing about this is that children want to learn. They are fascinated to learn about their world, how to interact with it and how to build skills that help them do so. Home educated children, whose learning is not confined to irrelevant and tedious academic curricula, learn effectively and successfully because they want to. Because they are not put off.
For children to be engaged in education they need to feel it is relevant to them, it needs to be mostly an enjoyable experience, and one they feel is realistic to them. I doubt many nine year olds feel that when they’re learning about a ‘reporting clause’. In fact many teachers will feel the same; unless they have a degree specifically in English they feel ill equipped and unready according to the report.
A Primary head I spoke to had this to say on the subject; ‘The English curriculum is barely relevant to anything a primary child would need. It’s like plodding through treacle and I have great sympathy and admiration for the teachers, as just looking at the English there’s enough for a full year’s work without any other subjects to cover. And I can see the children with special educational needs completely falling by the wayside as many others will. Another worry is that parents will think their kids are failing if they don’t achieve these irrelevant targets, so they get stressed, stress permeates from school to home doing no one any good whilst the government wallow in self righteousness’
This ‘tough and rigorous’ curriculum, is designed by and for the educational elite. Not for real families wanting their kids to learn. And home school families successfully educate without these curriculum pressures.
Maybe if we took a tough and rigorous approach to making sure our children’s education was enjoyable and relevant it would be more effective at keeping more youngsters engaged in education. Instead politicians have trotted out another curriculum that is designed for the elite academic few and more likely to do the opposite.