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Norman Pratt

Reforming the Curriculum in England

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For anyone who understands 'educationese' language some of the thinking behind the government's plans for Curriculum Reform may be found here:

http://www.cambridgeassessment.org.uk/ca/digitalAssets/188853_Could_do_better_FINAL_inc_foreword.pdf

The basic idea seems to be to 'pick and mix' from the best that other countries have to offer.

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For anyone who understands 'educationese' language some of the thinking behind the government's plans for Curriculum Reform may be found here:

http://www.cambridgeassessment.org.uk/ca/digitalAssets/188853_Could_do_better_FINAL_inc_foreword.pdf

The basic idea seems to be to 'pick and mix' from the best that other countries have to offer.

And there was I thinking that we only did that in Australia!!

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Jean. Fair comment. However, this piece I came across the other day http://www.abc.net.au/unleashed/43240.html suggests to me that scholarly articles like the Cambridge Assessment document are not the only kind involved in this kind of educational debate!

At the secondary school where I taught one of the best In-servicee Training sessions on the subject of classroom control was headed by an Australian gentleman who suggested that the initial way to challenge bad classroom behaviour was to state simply what was going on, or, as he put it, 'the SotBO', rather than yelling at the child concerned - for example (in firm but measured tones) 'Darren; you're throwing glue sticks at the polystyrene ceiling tiles.' Putting aside the habits of a lifetime, I followed his advice and found this worked very well.

I am trying to follow this restrained path with regard to the Coalition's education policy. They do appear to be acting in an irrational and dangerous way, and I don't want them (no, really!) to be hurt - or, more importantly, our nation's children. The problem is I can't fathom out what is going on.

Part of my problem is with educational jargon as it sometimes obscures serious issues. Occasionally educationalists seem to fall over themselves to give added authority to their ideas by insisting on making their language obscure. For example the Cambridge Assessment document says at one point:

"The term ‘coherence’ does not carry the meaning typically associated with a ‘broad and balanced curriculum’ but is a highly precise technical term: a national curriculum should have content arranged in an order which is securely based in evidence associated with age-related progression, and all elements of the system (content, assessment, pedagogy, teacher training, teaching materials, incentives and drivers etc) should all line up and act in a concerted way to deliver public goods (Schmidt & Prawat op cit)."

Slightly over-simplified this would appear to mean "Coherence needs to be applied not just to the range of subjects children are taught, but to the whole system that delivers it." Did they really need to invent 'a highly precise technical term'?

My second major problem is applying international comparisons to the teaching of a subject like History. Is successfully filling young people with nationalistic myths in order to produce motivated soldiers good History teaching? Does it make a difference when some of the countries we are comparing have populations of half a million and others 60 million?

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Sorry - I haven't been back to this site for a while.

Re the abc article - Kevin Donnelly is a very controversial character here in Oz. I've met him several times. He is a far right wing, conservative and although I tend to agree with a lot of his comments, he is not well thought of by the progressive mainstream educationalists. He's very much a back to the basics man and critical of a lot of "modern" stuff even though it may have merit if it is not over utilised.

I certainly agree with you about edspeak - we suffer here from a plethora of educational jargon and often promotion depends on speaking it fluently.

Australia has just introduced a national curriculum for the first time ever and schools begin officially teaching it next year. It's more traditional and content driven than previously but I don't believe that's a bad thing as we had got to a silly state of affairs with each State having its own curriculum which varied from one extreme to another. At least now kids can move about and find the same teaching content in each grade.

Was the behaviour bloke you met Bill Rogers? He has done a lot of work in England. I have been to several of his workshops as I used to be President of our Teachers Union and before that a secondary teacher. I have always thought highly of him and his down to earth solutions. I practised his broken record technique regularly. He once came to a very difficult school I taught in and at the end of the week freely admitted that he was glad he wasn't teaching one particular Yr 8 class - I WAS though.

Cheers

Jean W

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