A lot of the discussions I have professionally at the moment revolve around the proposed new curriculum in Wales. It is an important point in Education in Wales as there is a great opportunity to make a curriculum that will benefit the learners and help re engage those that do not se education as helping them. In a world where technology plays such an important role, the jobs market is going to be ever changing, more automation of industries means fewer roles and new skills are required to create new jobs. It can be argued that this has always been the case as industries die off but technology is moving at such a rate that education needs to be fit for purpose to ensure todays learners are well equipped for the time they leave school.
That being said, how do you achieve that?
We have seen the introduction of skills frameworks, to support those key elements deemed to be essential for young people today. Literacy, Numeracy, Digital Competence, the list could easily go on. The idea here being that these are not subjects but elements that cut across all that we do so should be weaved into all elements of teaching.
Can the same not be said for everything? Could a PE teacher not argue that you can’t do much without knowing how to move your body effectively, and that these skills are required to be an active participant in society? Could an RE teacher not argue that todays issues are caused by not really understanding each other and that this would make our learners better equipped to live in a multi cultural world?
So this is what our school system starts to mirror, competing subjects, all arguing that their subject is well founded and contributes to the whole and with good reason. Breadth of knowledge is a good thing. The problem comes when one of these areas is considered more important. Then the others lose their status, when we raise the issue of assessment and the core subjects being more important, we are telling our students exactly that. Then they do not get that true breadth of understanding as we have already told them it is less important.
And then we can look further at the interconnection. Yes, I need literacy for lots of things, to read in History I needed to develop these skills. To do inquiry in Science, I needed numeracy to help me assess the data. But what if we flipped it? What if I needed science to encourage and give meaning to maths, what if I used history as a stimulus to want to learn to read. This could be endless, The point is that by separating subjects we are simply causing learners to see them differently, There is something of all subjects in everything we do. If we stop focusing on the individual elements that make them different and instead focus on what they all can do to support each other, surely the learning will still take place. The understanding of the connections will mean that new connections can be made.
We need to start to acknowledge the importance of other subjects in our own subject, see how they can influence learning or how we can use the skills from one area in another. Then students might choose to go deeper in their learning, because they truly are inspired. A good example of this is the fact I have a history degree, these skills I learnt around research and evaluating sources of information, have helped me develop my own skills in ICT through self discovery and my own online research.
So a new curriculum that puts subjects together, will still isolate the other possible links, it will take the teachers to see the possibilities and think for themselves, to make it clear to the students in their classrooms what other areas could be explored.
A curriculum should be a guide but teaching will always be about the connections we make.