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Climb every mountain

In the brave new world of A Curriculum for Excellence, teachers will, it appears, be expected to turn the extra-curricular into all things curricular (page six). Everything that goes on in school life, whether it be rock-climbing, sport, or drama clubs, should go into the melting pot of learning that creates successful learners, confident individuals, responsible citizens and effective contributors. Out will go out-of-school-hours learning - only learning will survive.

There is a seductive quality to the notion that youngsters should learn things that motivate them, the things that offer enjoyment. But there is a danger of a real backlash here. Sometimes pupils need to learn the things that are hard to learn and boring because they are necessary for the next stage in life.

The pronouncement by Stirling's David Cameron that what girls learn in their computer clubs is more relevant and important than the Standard grade syllabus has a certain attraction (page one). Certainly, it is a considerable advance that girls are being switched on to information technology by having access to girly, creative hooks. But the new curriculum should not be made up entirely of such approaches to the exclusion of the current course. It should include the best of both and maybe some new elements.

As the challenges of the new curriculum emerge, so are the battle lines being formed by the traditionalists and the reformers. We are seeing a debate opening up between those who think a teacher's job is to teach a subject - and those who think it is to teach children according to their individual needs. The latter is a very tall order, some might say impossibly so.

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