Leave the factory behind

7th November 2003 at 00:00
Surely some mistake? Can the views expressed on the "Victorian curriculum" in The TESS, last week by Douglas Osler really be those of the former head of an inspectorate which for many years, under his leadership, rigidly imposed the "never intellectually respectable" Munn doctrine of balance on Scottish schools?

Is this a sudden conversion on the road to retirement? A welcome (if a little delayed) example of life-long learning?

Unfortunately not, for it seems that one Victorian curriculum is merely to be replaced by another based on an equally arbitrary selection of content and equally instrumental in intent - to prepare children better for employment and to deliver better examination results.

This is a rear-view mirror vision of "improvement" - to do what we have always done, but do it better. Is it too much to hope that, after 30 years of Munn miasma, we might be able to bring forward original proposals to revitalise Scottish education? It will be a massive task as so much capital, both physical and human, is locked into the present system (factory type buildings, unnecessarily large local authority management structures, rigid job contracts). But, given determined strategic intent, it should be possible to embark on a programme of interlinked incremental changes.

It is sometimes said that we must prepare our children for the future - but it is equally important to prepare the future for our children. Radical, far-reaching reform of schooling (particularly at secondary level) is not an option. Either we take the initiative, or a rapidly changing social and technological environment will do the job for us, but not necessarily in ways we would wish.

David Eastwood Faraday House Newmachar, Aberdeenshire

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