Scottish culture: the whole picture;Scotland curriculum

19th February 1999 at 00:00
What do you understand by Scottish culture, and how should it fit in the curriculum? Below is an edited version of the consultation paper, 'The School Curriculum and the Culture of Scotland', published by the Government's advisory body and sent to all schools. Is this how you would like to see culture in our schools develop?

The context

The report on The School Curriculum and the Culture of Scotland takes as its central theme the concept of sustainability - the notion that personal and social well-being can be enhanced only if due account is taken of the implications of current political, social, economic and cultural decisions for future generations.

Its main message is that future changes in the curriculum must take account of the cultural context of Scotland and that current developments in society have specific implications that the education system should address.

The first section focuses on the changing context: Scotland's political culture, business life and social challenges. If young people are to engage in public discussions on matters central to Scotland's future, they will require an understanding of the political structures and processes, an awareness of public policy, a sense of citizenship and of belonging to a wider community.

The effect of economic growth on the environment, and issues of social justice, compassion, quality education for all, health care and other social services remain high on the political agenda and may be said to reflect a deep sense of community.

It would be absurd to ignore the problems of social exclusion and inequality of opportunity in Scotland. Facing up to these must be high on the national agenda.

Although politics, business and social practices are all expressions of the culture of Scotland, it is still essential to consider culture inthe narrower sense - language, literature, artistic and intellectual accomplishments, customs and the media.

As a pluralist society, the culture of Scotland is varied. The traditional cliche of the kilted, bagpipe-playing, heavy-drinking, aggressive male does not begin to do justice to it.

The various manifestations of the culture of Scotland were explored in some detail by the review group under the headings: ideas and language; achievements; ways of life; outlooks and products; and customs. The group advised Scottish CCC that such aspects of Scottish culture should be reflected in the curriculum, but stressed that young people should be encouraged to draw on cultural influences from other places and times.

The curriculum Cultural issues cannot be confined to particular subjects or to one or two periods a week. The total curriculum and the whole life of the school have a vital role to play.

The constitutional reform taking place and the establishment of a parliament in Edinburgh should be seen as golden opportunities to create a new political culture in Scotland.

The new culture must be one of inclusiveness that seeks to inform and engage young people by developing their understanding of political process and issues and the parts they may be expected to play. They need to have a critical understanding of areas such as law and order, public finance, health, education, industry and foreign affairs.

The curriculum should foster responsible citizenship, paying attention equally to knowledge, skills, values and capabilities, and to the nature of schools as institutions, particularly, how they develop a sense ofcommunity and an ethos based on mutual respect and tolerance.

It must keep pace withtransformations in Scotland's business life and culture, and prepare young people for a variety of roles as producers, service providers, consumers, self-employed people and voluntary workers.

Education industry links and work-related learning should be at the heart of the curriculum, and personal effectiveness - including inter-personal skills and matters such as personal financial capability - should be fostered.

School education can raise people's expectations and earning potential, but it also supports sustainable economic growth with due attention to the environment and well-being of future generations.

The curriculum should encourage young people to reflect on major social issues, and debate what sort of society they wish to live in. This requires an understanding of the history, society and culture of Scotland and the wider context of the UK, Europe and the world.

It should equip young people to live at ease with different views, lifestyles and cultures. They should not be left to discover for themselves the consequences of unprotected sex, substance abuse, an unbalanced diet and lack of exercise, or the effects of racism and intolerance.

A holistic approach should be adopted, exemplifying and advising on certain courses of action, thereby helping to promote and sustain social cohesion.

The curriculum should foster an understanding of Scotland's cultural heritage - its language, literature, arts, religion and philosophy - while developing an appreciation of the British, European and global contexts.

Specific opportunities include:

* Scots, Gaelic and other languages to be supported at primary and secondary levels * History - to include Scotland's cultural heritage and an understanding of its place in the world * Geography - to include the study of Scottish conditions * Environment - the localenvironment to be used to provide a better understanding of the world and a sense of stewardship * Arts - to examine ideas about society and culture * Technology - to include Scottish content and contexts * Design and technology - due attention must be paid to Damp;T at primary and secondary levels, and ways in which economic growth, technological innovation and the protection of the environment can be advanced in harmony * Science - to contribute to debates on science-related issues * Media - to be explored as expressions of Scottish culture and promoters of representations and issues about Scotland * Modern languages - to explore other societies and cultures as well as Scotland, looking at similarities and differences * Religion - its contribution is revealed in the country's spiritual and social fabric, shared values and guiding precepts * Personal and social education - to explore social issues, and consider the meaning ofcommunity at local and national levels Please write with your views, in no more than 150 words, to: Curriculum Editor, 'TES Scotland', Scott House, 10 South St Andrew Street, Edinburgh EH2 2AZ; fax: 0131 558 1155; e-mail:

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