Tertiary joins in to make it a Curriculum for Everyone

23rd September 2011 at 01:00
Universities and colleges get on board to offer students total flexibility

When it was first introduced, Curriculum for Excellence was very much seen as "just a schools thing".

But colleges and universities have begun to come on board. And now secondary and tertiary education providers in the north-east are working with the area's local authorities to become a "region of excellence" for CfE.

Their ultimate aim, set out at a conference in Aberdeen at the start of the new academic year, is to offer 15 to 25-year-olds as much flexibility as possible with "any time, anywhere" learning.

Aberdeen University already has its own curriculum reform, featuring course options and an ethos so close to CfE that the targets are virtually identical.

Where CfE's four key "capacities" are to create successful learners, confident individuals, responsible citizens and effective contributors, Aberdeen graduates will gain the following "attributes": academic excellence, critical thinking and communication, learning and personal development, and active citizenship. The reform emphasises broader study options which also mirror CfE, including learning additional languages.

Addressing the conference, Professor Peter McGeorge, principal of Aberdeen University, said: "Compare the CfE capacities and Aberdeen University reform attributes and they are the same. We're talking the same language.

"The first cohort will be completing this process at about exactly the time students coming out of CfE will be starting university - so the timing of these things is also spot on.

"Anything which makes the transition from school to college to university easier will enhance their learning experience and if you do that they will do better and will go on to get better jobs."

Outlining the additional courses under the university's new curriculum, he added: "For example, a student studying history can opt for a modern language course to complement their core degree.

"The number of students who want to take Mandarin and Arabic as a study option is amazing. It's exactly these kinds of subjects that students can take out into the marketplace that will make them stand out."

Aberdeen College, meanwhile, has been spearheading collaborations with schools and universities, particularly Robert Gordon (RGU).

It is at the heart of a growing trend for "two for one" courses where students gain two qualifications in four years, studying for two years at college and then two more at university.

Sandra Walker, Aberdeen College's director of curriculum and learning, said: "Colleges are in the centre. Schools, individuals and local authorities all link through us to universities.

"It took a little time to persuade parents and teachers this was a viable alternative to a four-year degree.

"Parents still seem to think `get a degree and get a job'. But increasingly you need more than a degree. You need added value, and you can get that from colleges.

"The courses are practical and give students the `work-readiness' which employers want. Now at least 300 students each year are choosing to go to college first to get an extra qualification, and then on to RGU (for a degree)."

The Skills for Work programme, delivered at college, meanwhile offers pupils practical qualifications in areas like childcare or trades like construction, which they can also build on later to do an architecture degree.

Aberdeen City Council's director of education, Annette Bruton, praised the initiatives but warned of a "mountain of work" ahead as she announced a review to assess how to improve accessibility further.

Heads also warned that better communication was still needed to ensure CfE was delivered effectively regionwide.

julia.horton@tes.co.uk.

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