Robert Karling: Top marks to Holyrood for its reform of education

NEWS that GCSE exams are to be scrapped and replaced by an English baccalaureate certificate gives observers in Scotland the opportunity to reflect on some stark differences between the way governments have approached educational change on their respective sides of the Border.

The return to an end of course exam similar to the old O-level has brought charges of outdated thinking and elitism directed at the Education Secretary in the Westminster coalition, Michael Gove.

Scots, in the middle of the greatest change to their education system in generations, can ponder with quiet satisfaction on how they do things better.

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The Curriculum for Excellence is the result of a national debate in Scotland about how to educate young people for life and work in the 21st century. Extensive consultations asked searching questions about what sort of knowledge, skills and attributes young people would need and set out an educational methodology to develop these capacities.

It was then over to schools, in partnership with other stakeholders, to plan the courses and assessments to make it all happen at classroom level.

Change in England has all the appearance of being top down, with proposals leaked and schools told what to expect in the media.

When one looks at how educational change has been managed by the English and Scottish governments, the thoughtful and thorough approach taken by Holyrood is in contrast to the quick fix nature of the reforms being championed by the Department of Education at Westminster. As the reaction to the English bacc proves, Gove hasn’t engaged the teaching profession in genuine dialogue.

Whereas the Curriculum for Excellence is the result of a comprehensive rethink of why and how we educate young people, the English changes are driven by assessment. A change to how pupils are tested won’t mean that they become better taught or better educated.

The Curriculum for Excellence is engaging stakeholders in a bold initiative to transform learning for young Scots.

• Robert Karling is rector of Kelvinside Academy, Glasgow.