New curriculum will do nothing to improve standards

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I TAKE issue with some of the points raised by Euan McColm (Insight, 2 February).

Those who believe that the new Curriculum for Excellence will do anything to improve Scotland’s position in the international league tables for education will be disappointed.

Naming something “Curriculum for Excellence” does not ensure excellence or make it a curriculum. The CfE lists a number of worthy aspirations but is unlikely to bring about the stated aims. The lack of clarity and inconsistencies between schools is likely to have a detrimental effect. All the time and effort that has been put into this project could have been directed more fruitfully towards other issues such as dealing with indiscipline or supporting newly-qualified teachers.

The main beneficiaries of CfE will be educational publishers who are having a field day producing new material, and independent schools which will have a boost to their numbers when state schools fail to deliver improved standards. The people in schools who have been supporting the changes most strongly are those with a vested interest in change – those trying to climb the greasy pole of promotion or head teachers trying to demonstrate they are more able and progressive than others.

Michael Vansittart, St Monans

EUAN McColm’s article titled “Teachers must try harder with CfE” is calculated to stir the ire of many hardworking teaching staff, but it isn’t

the teachers who have to try harder, though Mr McColm is correct that CfE is not meeting its potential.

CfE has the potential to be a tool to free a generation’s minds. It promotes creativity, skills and rigor through critical thinking, abilities no-one will deny we need in an uncertain future world.

But there is a problem. The new curriculum demands more time for teachers to interact with pupils – fewer exercises and more problem solving – and it demands more depth of knowledge – a problem for non-specialist teachers.

Secondary teachers have the worst of it. They have the specialist depth of knowledge, but they don’t have the primary teacher’s ability to cross-

reference from one subject to another, and life in reality isn’t enclosed in the neat curricular boxes secondary exams suggest. Exams are a millstone round teachers’ necks since they lean towards skills and knowledge rather than critical thinking and creativity. Primary teachers don’t have the millstone, do have the width but don’t have the depth which in some areas, languages and

science particularly, has traditionally held them back. Without depth they can’t evaluate a child’s understanding, can’t make sense of how school science relates to modern issues, can’t extend bright thinkers and can’t promote significant critical thinking or creativity.

To make CfE work we need the leaders, trainers and development officers to deal with the issues hampering its development, and so it is the leaders, trainers and development officers who must try harder.

Roger Meachem, Town Yetholm

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