Michael Gove and his cronies are unleashing a ‘world-class curriculum’ on 5 – 14 year olds from September 2014. My children will be caught in the eye of the storm, although the oldest will hopefully only have to put up with it for two years…
Although every curriculum needs regular review, to ensure it is fit for purpose in a fast-changing world, I seriously would like to know who Gove thinks his overhauled monstrosity of a baby meets the needs of: him, or the country’s children? With its heavy emphasis on old school facts and figures, it’s not unlike the education I received when I was sufficiently compliant to be given it – and therein lies a problem. Teaching is not just the mere transmission of facts and an ‘education’ is not the summative testing of those facts at the exit point.
Like Professor Henry Higgins and Eliza Doolittle in Pygmalion, we now have the almighty Minister for Education descending into the midst of the mucky proletariat – tasked, nay obsessed, with giving us guttersnipes a ‘proper’ education, like wot he had. We will, he says, learn some fractions at the age of 5. There are plenty of 5 year olds who know what half an apple looks like already, believe me. Then we must have history! Yes, British, and lots of it. Of course he’s already had the book thrown back at him on that one for his backyard vision of the world. Between the ages of 11 and 14 pupils should have studied at least two of Shakespeare’s plays. Now I am a fan of Will with the quill, but really? The language is so rich and complex, it’s made to be performed. I would worry that for a lot of children at that age it would simply go over their heads, unless they are able to engage with the plot. Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo and Juliet anyone? Then, of course, being the taskmaster that he is, Gove is going to push accurate spelling. Rhthym anyone? I teach English and I still can’t spell the damn word. Now, I can look it up – rhythm – or I can get it right second or even fourth time around with a bit of thought, but the reason I’m not too fussed is because I don’t have to write it too often. Learning to spell words you aren’t going to use seems such a waste of precious time to me. Yes you might use them one day, you might need them a lot if you take up jazz composition and want to write a syncopated rythym – in which case, learn it then!
My fear is that in piling on the pressure to make young children become little fact regurgitators we are going to simply turn them off the whole damn thing. Turn them off the beauties of language, the amazing things that we can do with maths, turn history into dust-dry dates and places. And that, Henry Higgins, is when you will have lost them forever. When you overload children and make them shut down. With this curriculum you will shut off children’s natural abilities for divergent thinking – that creative state from where Einstein reached for the theory of relativity. The same Einstein that flunked maths at school. Prescriptive learning is anathema for many. Learning is a voyage of discovery, where you row your little boat up interesting creeks and across wild raging oceans. Learning, Gove-style, is a cruise round fixed points on the map. You never venture off the map because there might lie dragons.
I leave you with this. Gove wants all nine year olds to learn their 12 x table. I have one nearly nine year old who very well might anyway, in class as the teacher stretches her and engages her interest. I have an eleven year old who never will because if you can know your 10 x and 2 x table you can work it out anyway through partitioning. (That’s a method they didn’t teach when we were at school Mr Gove). When you think about it: why up to 12? it seems quite arbitrary – why not 13 or 15 for example. Here’s the answer from the BBC news website from The_Teacher.
As a secondary teacher I am ecstatic that we now have a wonderful, forward-thinking curriculum which will prepare our children for the modern world.
I particularly like making nine year olds study the 12 times table so they can easily work out the number of shillings and pence they will get in change from a pound.
Wait a minute..
Now tell me you are preparing our kids for the modern world?