January 07, 2009
If it weren't enough that the "21st century skills" crowd is bent on distracting American educators, they've made a splash on the other side of the pond, too. Faced with complaints that the British primary school curriculum is too traditional (20th century if you will), the government has decided to give it a facelift. Unfortunately, explains The Economist, it seems that "as well as losing fat, education will see a lot of meat go too." Implemented in 1988, the national primary curriculum brought rigor and uniformity to a previously haphazard elementary system. But incorporating cross-disciplinary and social issue classes have come back into fashion and the newly (as of July 2007) formed Department for Children, Schools and Families is battling with how to balance teen pregnancy, child health, juvenile crime, foreign languages and more with English, history, math and the like. Leading the effort is Sir Jim Rose, a former chief inspector of primary schools, who proposed in a December report replacing fourteen subject areas with six woefully mushy and politically correct "learning areas"; history and geography, for example, will become "human, social and environmental understanding." Too bad one in five British students leaves primary school unable to read and write. News flash: classes on eating more fruits and veggies are unlikely to teach them to do so. In sum, The Economist hits the nail on the head when it opines, "You cannot teach children everything. But that is no excuse for teaching them nothing much at all."
"Primary school subjects overhaul," BBC News, December 8, 2008
"In praise of facts," The Economist, December 11, 2008
"Please, sir, what's history?," The Economist, December 11, 2008