The wrong prescription?;Editorial;Opinion

14th May 1999 at 01:00
HE TROUBLE with setting people a minimum set of tasks is that many of them come to think that is all they have to do. That has been one of the biggest worries about the national curriculum itself - that if you specify what students should be taught, that is all all they will be taught. "Prescriptive" is the term the critics usually bandy about.

Even as the experts at the Department for Education and Employment were developing the structure and support materials for the literacy hour, there were grumbles from those in the know about the lack of recognition of the value of information and communications technology for literacy (ICT). And, of course, the official edicts virtually ignored ICT.

The only sensible rationale for this was that it would be wrong to set targets for schools that might not have the necessary equipment. How could they be expected to achieve them? Quite right. But what about those that do have the technology - not to mention those that are now being fitted out for the National Grid for Learning. Don't they need support too? Or are they supposed to wait until we're all ready?

Fortunately there are organisations and companies around capable of papering over the Government's cracks (cover story, page 12) and everyone is hoping that the cracks will not be so wide when it comes to preparing for the numeracy hour.

It's time for policy-makers to get in tune. No-one is saying that ICT should take centre stage, but the education community has already accepted that it is an integral tool that should be used across the curriculum.

Traditional approaches to education are all very well, but never forget that computers are all about numbers and words. You cannot get very far on the Web if you are not literate. Take 10 minutes and watch young and old skip from website to website. They find their way by words. And if like me you are numerically challenged, look at primary software that uses animations to explain concepts that stumped you.

Students happily accept the changes offered by ICT; as usual it's us adults who have to be dragged into the future.

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