Monday, 11 June 2007

Learning curve or downward spiral?

A leading think tank has accused politicians of trashing the national cirriculum and replacing real learning with trendy civil issues and narrow subject matter.

In today's sensational, The Corruption of the Curriculum, Civitas argues that, "The traditional subject areas have been hijacked to promote fashionable causes...while teachers are expected to help to achieve the Government's social goals instead of imparting a body of academic knowledge to their students,". Nothing like a cold dose of reality....

In the past the government said that half the UK's eligible demographic should go to university... As a result of such thoughtless targets we are no longer able to distinguish between able and talented students, churning out thousands of coddled, aimless school leavers. More kids want to be famous than be doctors (mind you, its a toughie, what's more oversubscribed, Holywood or the English medical field?), urgh. The other side of the coin sees swathes of dropouts and delinquents who'd much rather engage in petty crime than sit through tepid citizenship classes. Don't blame them.

Civitas outlines how History students are asked to write one-sided extremist interpritations of 9/11 (as a history graduate this seriously worries me, what the hell are our kids going to be learning in the future?) and English lit pupils bypass romanticism and get top marks. In science, the Bunsen burners and water rockets have been shelved in favour of theoretical debates on genetics and nuclear power.

I was never particularly good at science but I thoroughly enjoyed lessons at school, from fighting over lab coats and grumbling about goggles (not at all flattering as I remember), to the singed eyebrows and sulphorous smells that (somehow) capped most lessons, be it Chemistry, Physics or Biology. Ethical debate has its place, but I much prefer the memory of Claire Stockard covered head to toe in red dye. Heh.

Coupled with these allegations of mickey-mouse teaching, the General Teaching Council is now advocating the abolition of all national cirriculum tests for children below GCSE. Excessive testing is stressful and unnecessary for both gifted and slower kids, no doubt, but there has to be some way of gauging development. Otherwise we're going to end up with a load of 16 year olds who've never sat an exam and think Shelley discovered Polonium, or something equally ludicrous.

1 comment:

Jenny! said...

Testing is a tricky subject, needed to gauge growth, but is it completely accurate for those learners who are more visual and auditory? Is testing fair? We need to develope more advanced methods of testing. Poor test takers are not going to perform up to par on testing. Such a huge topic and there is so much will never be perfect!