Let's remove the strait-jacket

7th November 2003 at 00:00
Douglas Osler claimed in The TESS last week that boredom for pupils is a serious problem because curriculum content for them does not relate to the world outside.

If relevance to that world is the criterion, then there should be a great increase in boredom at school as that is what awaits those destined for supermarket work, call centres and elsewhere. A GP told me recently she was quitting because her surgeries were just a succession of patients every six minutes coming in to whinge. Boredom is endemic in our society.

Osler provides a list of the usual subjects but downgrades mathematics, home economics and classical studies. You cannot go far in the sciences, including social sciences, without a background in the assumptions of mathematics. He keeps history in the forefront: he is a historian. Our politicians decry obesity: a healthy lifestyle developed in home economics would have prevented it, but do remember the vast job creation opportunities in fighting the flab.

It would be valuable if the committee set up to review the 3-18 curriculum considered the strait-jacket within which schools work. There are the monitors and recorders in detail - Mr Osler being one, the social inclusionists, the continuous testers, the rights of the childists regardless of behaviour and the 50 per centists for university education being a few others.

Today we could have a different curriculum where there was groundwork teaching in agreed subjects until the pupil could go solo. Then those pupils could continue their education on the web. But teachers need much more hands-on experience of computers before they are comfortable in associating with pupils.

The internet is the biggest rubbish dump in the world but, like the African gold mines, yields an ounce of gold per ton of dross.

Teachers should be able to discuss what is of value with pupils who will need a new type of learning where they maintain their objectives despite tempting diversions on websites. Will it work? If piloted by insightful teachers over a significant period of time, it might.

Ian Morris Ravelston Dykes Edinburgh

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