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RSA 'revolution' would tear up the curriculum

A lack of strategy and purpose rather than the alleged failings of teachers is to blame for the problems facing education today.

And nothing short of a curriculum revolution will make what is taught in British schools relevant to the demands of the 21st century, according to the Royal Society for the Arts.

Its blueprint for the future envisages a curriculum without subjects, which focuses on pupil learning and relies on teachers' professionalism - particularly for the "evidence-based assessment" which it proposes would replace conventional exams.

Opening Minds: Education for the 21st Century is the culmination of work begun last year by the RSA, on redefining schooling and the curriculum. Its premise is that schools and the subject-based curriculum cannot keep up with the fast-changing world facing pupils.

Despite the increasing pace of social change there has been no debate on the core purposes of education, it says.

The RSA report argues that a competence-led, rather than information-led curriculum will better serve future needs. Pupil performance should be judged on the basis of competences (defined as the ability to understand and do), covering areas such as "relating to people" and "managing information", rather than subject knowledge. By putting student learning first, backed by effective technology, it will lead to a radical change in the way schools and teachers work.

The RSA sets out a 10-year framework for introducing its proposals, which would require the wholesale retraining of teachers, new resources and course materials. The biggest change would be in the relationship between the teacher and learner, with technology allowing the development of new pedagogies and flexible, individualised approaches to learning.

Patterns of attendance, the school day and year would change - as would assessment, which would be competence-led, relying heavily on teachers' judgment.

Valerie Bayliss, director of the RSA's curriculum project, said: "We would be putting teachers back in control of the curriculum, as being there to help people learn rather than to teach in the traditional sense."

Some of the RSA's radical proposals could be put into practice as early as 2000. The society is a partner in a bid to run an education action zone, and will hear later this year whether the bid is successful.

Opening Minds is sponsored by Andersen Consulting and the Lifelong Learning Foundation. For copies, price pound;7.50, phone Lesley James on 0171 930 5115.

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