Neither national, nor a curriculum

Posted in: Comment, New Publications

It was a pleasure to read Robin Alexander's incisive critique of Mr Gove's attempts at curriculum reform: pleasing, but oh so disappointing that such a riposte should prove necessary.  Here's the Abstract to Alexander's Forum paper for a flavour of both critique and prose.

This article examines the government's view, as revealed in its June 2012 National Curriculum proposals, of the purposes and character of the primary curriculum as a whole. The proposals are found to be deficient in a number of respects: in their naive, selective and inflated use of international evidence; in their treatment of aims as no more than cosmetic; in their impoverished take on culture, knowledge and values; in their reduction of educational standards to test performance in the 3Rs; in their perpetuation of the damaging Victorian legacy of a two-tier curriculum; and in their characterisation of spoken language, despite what has long been known about its vital role in development, learning and teaching, as little more than 'idle chatter'. In sum, the proposals are judged to betray contempt for other than politically-compliant evidence and to fall seriously short of what a national curriculum minimally entails.

Alexander's argument that it is deeply undemocratic only to think of curriculum Aims once content has been safely decided (by ministers) is so obvious, that it is a wonder it needs stating.  That it has to be said illustrates the paucity of thinking and understanding at senior government levels.  It is like thinking about nutrition only after a year's meals have been decided upon.

Alexander asks whether any thought was given to making the curriculum fit for the 21st century, and finds little evidence it was, at least by anyone who matters in government.  Although there is understandably no mention of sustainability, per se, in this critique, the paper focuses strongly on the cultural context wherein it has its significance.  Anyone who needs a quick intro to contemporary curriculum issues would do much worse than starting here.  Too much to hope that anyone in the DfE is reading ...

Alexander R  (2012)  Neither National nor a Curriculum  Forum 54(3)  369-383

Posted in: Comment, New Publications


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