Change needed to make progress

28th May 2010 at 01:00

Three recent CPD events have got me thinking about the changing curriculum, although none was directly related to Curriculum for Excellence.

The first was very 21st-century, along the lines probably envisioned by the architects of curricular change. It highlighted the leaps mankind has made from writing on walls, to ink-based writing and now to social networking technology and iPads. As a historian, I fear the loss of rich primary source material painting a picture of the past, especially through letters and diaries. But can we imagine the world if people had stuck to carving images on stone walls?

The second was a lecture by eminent historian Tom Devine on "Did slavery make Scotland great?" In many ways it did, he suggested. Scotland demonstrated flexibility, diversity and adaptability to meet the social and economic demands of the time. When the markets changed, Scotland changed with them. People's skill sets changed as the economy evolved. If we do not change, we will not survive, far less prosper.

The final event, in professional discussion with colleagues, focused on the need to do more to support vocational skills so students can fill local vacancies. Some blamed the architects of the new curriculum for not giving them the framework to solve this.

I thought about stone walls and Devine's evolving Scotland. A one-size- fits-all framework could not provide my colleagues with the specific answer to their specific problem. What was required was fertile ground to allow them to come up with their own solution - one which focused on allowing students to gain skills to enter the local economy productively and to re-skill for the future.

So, what did I get from all this? Take risks? Caw cannie? The latter is not something our predecessors did when they put Scotland on the map. I should like to think the great Scots of the past would counsel us not to stifle progress - or, not to stifle progress unless you can offer a better solution.

Neil McLennan, principal teacher of history, Tynecastle High, Edinburgh.

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