Have faith in schools – don’t prescribe the curriculum

I’m going to risk being controversial but the avalanche of commentary in the last few days has really made me think. Since Michael Gove announced the new slimmed-down curriculum there has been a huge clamour:

Yet in the past few years and we were hearing “the national curriculum is too prescriptive”¬†and “2/3rds of teachers think it has too much content“.

Now don’t get me wrong, I know some of the current complaints are about an enormous increase of prescription in History and English, and I can entirely sympathise with that. However, possibly controversially, I’m afraid I don’t sympathise with all those people seeking to have their subjects made mandatory. In fact, I’d quite like to have just English and Maths in the core curriculum (and this comes from a Science teacher).

Choice is great! Schools should be entirely free to set their own projects, do their own assessments, and let kids follow their interests. I’d love to do project-based science, create portfolios of interesting research and experiments, and really get kids following their noses and exploring areas of interest to them. Put it in the curriculum and we’re back to standardised testing for all, set ‘must-learn’ topics, and a big lid on the fun.

Of course a great school will get kids to be creative and follow their artistic ideas. They’ll inspire them with incredible ideas about using technology, and they’ll engage in fascinating comparisons and debates about religion, ethics and philosophy. A great school will create informed, engaged citizens with an interest in language, literature, and music.

Try and write a one-size fits all approach on paper and you’ll stifle innovation. Just because an expert couldn’t have got to where they were today without learning about Electromagnetic induction at age 15 really doesn’t mean its the right thing for every 15 year old to do. Just look at the amazing things going on a places like Big Picture learning and the way they create personalised curricula for their students. Just think how inspired kids can be when they follow music because they love it, and take exams when they’re ready. Nobody would argue we’d create more musicians and a better country by making everyone learn the same music, on the same instrument, at the same age.

Have faith in the schools, trust the teachers, and let the kids follow their interests. Don’t prescribe.

Am I right? All disagreements and comments very welcome – I love to learn.

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