Knowledge-based curriculum on the way?

Educational publishers have been waiting, with increasing frustration, for details of what will be in the new English National Curriculum for primary and secondary schools for September 2014. That might seem a long time away, but when you are a developer of high quality resources for schools, it is frighteningly close.

However, it looks like our desire for knowledge of what’s in the National Curriculum might might be over. However, one must be careful of what one wishes for. In a speech yesterday, Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Education, made it clear that knowledge will be at the heart of the National Curriculum.

He argued that, for young people to understand and engage with the changing world around them, they needed to be equipped with core sets of information for each area of the curriculum. The examples he gave included long division and fractions in maths, grammar and punctuation and ‘proper knowledge’ of pre-2oth-Century literature in English and clear emphasis on the importance of translation in language learning.

I don’t think anyone would argue that knowledge shouldn’t form part of the curriculum. What worries me is that it might be at the expense of the development of skills and understanding. The world is changing so fast: there will be lots of new facts that today’s children will need to learn as they progress through life. If they have been taught only knowledge, and not the skills to become independent learners, with a desire to learn, how will they fare?

Every curriculum presents challenges to educational publishers. In addition to the obvious time constraint challenges, I think Mr Gove’s new National Curriculum also will challenge publishers to look for creative ways of presenting knowledge in a way that will ensure that facts are not only taught, but learned.

I see my role as an educational publisher as inspiring children to want to learn, challenging them to try new things (without fear of failing) and giving them and their teachers the support to be able to do so.

I hope others will also take this approach. Let’s see how we can make a knowledge based curriculum fun and, at the same time, help children develop concrete understanding.

Our book Teaching Grammar, Spelling and Punctuation Through Visual, Auditory and Kinaesthetic Activities does just that. Children learn where to put semi-colons by ordering themselves into sentences and practise using commands through writing drama scripts. Much more exciting than sitting in rows being taught facts – don’t you agree?

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