We can see through the techno-speak

17th July 2009 at 01:00
Letters: A Curriculum for Excellence, do teachers really understand what it's all about?

Having just retired after 32 years at the chalkface, I feel the time is ripe for me to come clean on A Curriculum for Excellence, described by Fiona Hyslop, Education Secretary, as "the most radical reform of education in Scotland for a generation". Yet, although ACfE has undergone intensive development for several years, many teachers have little or no idea what it is all about.

Yes, there has been much bandying about of such woolly pedagogical concepts as "cross-curricular learning", "internal assessment", "active learning" and "learning how to learn", which, allegedly, will miraculously contribute to an idealised end product of young people who are "successful learners", "confident individuals", "responsible citizens" and "effective contributors".

These four ideals are repeated at the foot of every page in the recent "Experiences and Outcomes" file, sent at huge cost to every teacher in Scotland. They have become the mantra of the new curriculum. It is as if constant repetition will mysteriously inject these archetypal, utopian values into the minds of impressionable youngsters.

In fact, ACfE is an unproven ideology dressed up in glossy, jargonised techno-speak, driven forward by an unelected quangocracy. The heart of ACfE is a distillation of all the trendy, liberal thinking that has dominated education since the 1960s - child-centred learning, learning must be fun, learning must be relevant.

More worryingly, knowledge is replaced by "skills pupils need to support them in the future". This depressing and dangerous trend towards bland utilitarianism is plain anti-intellectual and a kick in the teeth for the next generation.

Yet Ms Hyslop says: "We set a very high ambition. Our pupils and students should expect nothing less." God help them and the future of Scotland's (once-leading) educational system if ACfE goes ahead.

Andrew Dempster, Forgandenny, Perthshire.

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