I’ve always been a bit sceptical about claims that education is being dumbed down, usually these comments appear after exam results are published and it’s one hell of a downer to find out that everyone views what you think you worked hard at as easy.
I’m now starting to believe that it’s entirely true about the standards of our education system dropping and I suppose our society as well – you only have to look at how much time has been dedicated to ‘honour’ Jade Goody who was an incredibly naive racist who spent their life on reality TV compared to the time spent on the death of Natasha Richardson.
Today I read a report in ‘The Guardian’ which revealed some of the proposed changes to the primary (4 – 11yrs) school national curriculum; the Victorians and WW2 are no longer compulsory but pupil will learn about podcasting, blogging, Wikipedia and Twitter. They have to learn about two key periods of British history but it’s up to the schools to choose, surely though the Victorians provide one of the key periods of history? During the Victorian age we had some major scientific advances and understand (particularly medical science), the Industrial Revolution, the suffragettes and some major sociological reforms – not to mention there’s the whole collapse of the Empire thing. World War 2 is an incredibly important area of history, not just things like the Holocaust but things like how the events of WW2 shaped Britain’s future and the effect it had on people through rationing, the Blitz and evacuation.
The apparent ‘aim’ of this is to prevent duplication of study at secondary level, fine, that’s an issue I agree but if you focus on children and the home front during WW2 it would be a different area of study to what you general go onto. Perhaps primary school children don’t quite need to know about all the atrocities of WW2 until they’re older and let’s leave the politics until you’re in a position to understand it all better, but there are large parts of WW2 history that are ignored at secondary level. The only time I studied anything to do with the Home Front was during GCSE (final two years of school) History, after the point history was compulsory. I know that studying evacuation when I was in primary school made me really think about what it would have been like and from that I got a better understanding of how real these events were… some schools make it fun and interactive, mine certainly didn’t but they just need to think about how involving history can be and not how many times it’ll be studied.
Apparently the unions were cut out from the discussion process of these thoughts but they have responded to the policies and so far no one seems to be making much noise.
The Head of Education at the NUT (National Union of Teachers) seemed concerned about the proposals “jumping the trends”, and it does and I don’t see an understanding of how Twitter, blogging and podcasting all work would particularly be of benefit. Children aren’t stupid and the ones that are in primary school when (and if) these proposals come in with probably be already very familiar with these things as either parents or older siblings will be involved (or even the primary school kids!) The president of UK Literacy Associating is concerned about the lack of reading for pleasure noises that it all makes, but the general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers thinks it’s a “much more sensible programme of study”!