Reforms to free five beautiful minds

15th September 2006 at 01:00
Teachers should not see the curriculum reforms as being simply about de-cluttering the current overcrowded curriculum or creating a brand new set of tick-lists, they were warned last week.

Instead, they need to focus on how they can use the reforms to bring about "transformational change" and develop young people's minds for the challenges they will face in the 21st century.

Keir Bloomer, chair of the Tapestry Partnership organisation and chief executive of Clackmannanshire Council, told an audience of over 1,000 teachers in Glasgow that the purposes of education identified in the new Scottish curriculum had close parallels with the latest thinking of international educationists.

Professor Howard Gardner, best known for his work on multiple intelligences, gave the world premiere of his latest thesis on The Five Minds for the Future at the same conference, organised by the Tapestry Partnership (TESS, September 1).

He outlined his latest theorem that, to meet the challenges of globalisation, technology and conflict, the current generation of learners will need to develop five minds.

These are:disciplined (so that they acquire a real mastery of one or more disciplines); synthesised (so that they are able to weigh up the huge amounts of information available, and sift it to assess what is of value); creative (so that they can think "out of the box" and be innovative); respectful (a notion which goes beyond mere tolerance, but which will be necessary in such a diverse world); and ethical (which involves a preparedness to act ethically for the greater good of others, even where that may go against one's self-interest).

Mr Bloomer poked scorn at Chris Woodhead, the former head of Ofsted, for his championship of assessment and testing, saying: "In times of change and uncertainty, there are always people who will find security in a futile attempt to cling to the familiar."

Teachers' jobs, Mr Bloomer said, were to "educate young people for their future -not our past".

In an age of lifelong learning, the most important duties of schools were to give people the skills to continue learning beyond school and the motivation to do so - not to try and give all the skills that would see them through to later life.

The biggest challenge facing teachers was to be sufficiently creative to give their pupils the skills to meet future challenges.

In relation to Professor Gardner's "respectful" and "ethical" minds, Mr Bloomer drew parallels with the new emphasis on citizenship in A Curriculum for Excellence (ACfE). That meant, he said, that schools would have to do more than just involve pupils in school councils which tended to follow the traditional parliamentary models. Instead, they had to challenge young people about how they could effect change in local and global concerns.

The current curricular design also needed to change to offer challenge and enjoyment, and relevance - these areas were key to motivation, and motivation was itself key to lifelong learning and the engagement of the one in six pupils who leave school without having received any real benefit from it.

The new curriculum also had to be built round a clear set of values - and again, here, Mr Bloomer drew parallels with Professor Gardner's theorem of "respectful" and "ethical" minds.

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