Keep up with the digital age, schools advised

9th December 2011 at 00:00
Pace of change and `desert' of good practice criticised by consultant

Scotland's schools are lagging far behind when it comes to global technology-driven advances, a former Scottish Government adviser has warned.

Leading education consultant George Smuga criticised Scottish primaries and secondaries for failing to keep up with the 21st-century digital age.

Using high street banks as an example of how much technological developments have changed daily life and working practices, he told a conference on senior phase education: "Think about all the changes in other aspects of life, but a classroom still looks like a classroom. The way other parts of our lives are changing compared with schools is quite dramatic."

Mr Smuga, a former headteacher, who is working as a consultant for Education Scotland, stressed that, under Curriculum for Excellence, schools had a duty to drive forward improvements in learning and teaching to ensure that young people have the skills and knowledge they need for "learning, life and work in the 21st century".

He contrasted the slowness of schools in embracing change with the speedy way in which today's children, the "digital natives", react to new products and ways of doing things.

He also highlighted the way technology firms are promoting the educational benefits of their products.

Quoting the current iPad advertisement slogan, he said: "`There's never been a better time to learn'. That's how they are marketing iPads now."

Mr Smuga cited the views of Dr Willard Daggett, a leading international education consultant, who fears that schools around the world are falling behind as global life moves forward.

Dr Daggett, CEO of the International Centre for Leadership in Education in New York, has previously warned: "The world our children are going to live in is changing four times faster than our schools."

Mr Smuga also lamented a "desert" of good practice in education for senior pupils across Scotland.

Referring to the Learning and Teaching Scotland website, which is now part of Education Scotland, he told delegates at the conference in Stirling last month: "When you go into (the section of the website for) examples of good practice there is a huge amount in primary. (but) there is a desert from senior phase."

However, the conference also highlighted a successful regional scheme which was hailed as a role model in making a positive impact on senior pupils.

The West Lothian Campus builds on traditional ad-hoc practices where pupils travel between the region's 11 secondaries and West Lothian College to share lessons and resources (TESS, 25 November).

St Margaret's Academy head Jim Cameron, who has led the initiative, told the conference that although it was launched to widen pupils' choice of subjects and courses, it was also helping schools hit by budget cuts to save money.

julia.horton@tess.co.uk.

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