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Tuesday, June 15, 1999 Published at 08:11 GMT 09:11 UK


Education

Re-inventing education for the next century

The idea is to teach and test 'competences'

Schools need a new curriculum that would involve testing pupils on their competence to learn and function effectively as citizens, rather than on what they know, it is being claimed.

Pupils would negotiate individual 'learning targets' in a more open relationship with their teachers.

The Royal Society for the Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA) is seeking to open a wide-ranging debate about what young people are being educated for, and about what it will mean to be 'well educated' in the next century.

Its proposed curriculum would have five categories made up of 'competences' for:

  • learning
    - this would include having high standards in literacy and numeracy and the handling of information, but would also take in understanding how to learn
  • citizenship
    - including personal behaviour and contribution to society, based on an understanding of ethics and values
  • relating to people
    - including how to handle personal relationships and how to work well in a team
  • managing situations
    - such as managing time, change and risk, and how to be entrepreneurial
  • managing information
    - accessing and evaluating information, and the importance of critical judgement
The RSA says that its proposals, Opening Minds - education for the 21st Century, challenge almost every aspect of the way schools are run.

With the new curriculum would go new forms of assessing pupils' progress, based on what they were capable of rather than what they knew.

"The RSA's vision is clear," it says. "We want an education system that will help every young person to develop to the best of her or his ability the competences needed to become a successful, active citizen; to be able to contribute their creative and other talents to their work, their families and to society.

"We want them to understand why every aspect of their education is important; that it is about both essential competences and developing their capacity to enjoy life and to value learning for its own sake.

Citizenship skills

"Reforming the curriculum so that it is competence-led instead of information-led is we believe the most effective way of doing this."

The government is currently consulting on proposals to revamp England's National Curriculum, part of which involve new citizenship skills not unlike some of those advocated by the RSA.

But the overall emphasis remains firmly on learning a mass of information. Laws covering what should be taught in the 'core subjects' of English, maths and science at primary and secondary level remain unchanged.

At the National Association of Head Teachers conference in Cardiff recently, there were complaints that constant rapid change in education lacked a long-term vision.

The association is itself trying to develop a strategy for education in the next century, with work being done by Dr Peter Tymms of the University of Durham.



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