“A” Broad General Education Versus “The” Broad General Education

I’m excited by the prospect and opportunity CfE brings to Scottish Education. I’m slightly frustrated by some folk talking about “The” Broad General Education at the expense of “a” Broad General Education. Excuse the pedantry but I think it’s important — the more we strive in our authorities for homogeneity in our schools delivering CfE the less we actually seem to understand CfE.

Surely the great liberation that A Curriculum for Excellence brings to Scotland is the fact that we should be celebrating the diversity in schools not creating a uniform model? Every school in Scotland should be able to be different from our immediate neighbour because every school contains unique pupils with unique needs.

As I said , the real liberator here is the freedom to be creative and innovative – not tied into a single unified template.

Or am I reading my documents wrong?


PS – Please excuse any dodgy spelling/grammar mistakes in this post – It’s been a long day and I often illustrate Irony by saying “I’m the English Teacher who can’t spell”

8 thoughts on ““A” Broad General Education Versus “The” Broad General Education

  1. Paul Cochrane

    Totally agree G but in secondary we have leaders terrified to be different from anyone else. Creativity and innovation is being strangled by many of us starting Nationals in August and trying to write and prepare whole courses in a few weeks. ‘Fraid it’s ‘banging out the LOs’ time. I have been craetive and innovative this year but was told ‘you are about 2 weeks behind everyone else’ catch up as the kids have an entitlement to all the experiences. Progress, not depth is the mantra.

  2. Pamela Manley

    an interesting post Graham. I had hoped more would have commented give the SQA events over the last few weeks and the ongoing discussions about whether a broad general education will actually be delivered. I struggle to see the exciting movement we were promised, when so many schools are already talking, and bringing nationals into S3, and school models are not bringing any different from previous areas. Also it has to be one of the biggest changes, but the least funded! rant over and please forgive any of my errors too!!

  3. J. Wils

    As a parent and tutor (previously taught science in secondary), my two are starting out in the third year of curriculum for excellence. I am hopeful that the lack of funding will lead in the end to very little change at all.

    I can tell you that parents are not happy about the things that have been happening so far with days off in school for kids doing so-called Citizenship. Our local school ended up with a largish fight after three days of that as did our previous school in Perth. The kids want to learn and be challenged, not presented with airy fairy nonsense that the teachers seem to go along with.

    They need to know the basics before they can explore more interesting things. Fine to introduce a bit of both but at the moment the fundamentals seem to be getting thrown out. Why no science strand to the curriculum ? Why only literacy and numeracy ? Why does science need to change to accommodate history etc when history doesnt seem to have to do likewise.

    To get back to your post, the only advantage of the proposed broad third year would be they might not give up some subjects when they had only just started, but I do think that the kids relish finally being able to chose at this stage and they are beginning to think about jobs etc. My heart breaks to know that rather than get down to some work which I believe a lot are yearning for, its going to be yet more days off with “lets watch the Simpsons movie” yet again….”

    1. kennypieper

      Thanks for your comment. While we welcome discourse on all aspects of Cfe, I have to say I don’t recognise this picture you paint. That you are ‘hopeful’ that it doesn’t succeed does, however, assume that things do not need to change. That the status quo is the preferred option. While I am aware that there are teachers out there who don’t wish to change, my experience is that the majority realise that the present system doesn’t work for a large chunk of the children who come through our system. Even the academically successful, in terms of qualifications at least, find University too much of a challenge as they haven’t the skills to cope with increased challenge.

      Your generalisation that ‘parents are not happy’ is again, not what I am seeing and hearing form Parents. Many are indeed confused by the changes and concerned by the qualifications process, but most that I speak to are enthused by the new opportunities CfE offers. Describing Citizenship as ‘airy fairy nonsense’ is neither constructive or realistic. That we should want our children to be good citizens should be a prerequisite of any education system.

      Of course I cannot speak up for individuals schools, but my school is working hard on opportunities for all, including Citizenship, Interdisciplinary learning, as well as ‘the basics’ as you call them. I would be furious if my school let the sort of thing you describe happen. I can also assure you that, in my experience and those whom I come across through Pedagoo, no ‘fundamentals are being thrown out’. There is an assumption that we don’t have to give the kids knowledge any more. Nothing could be further from the truth. We are providing them with the means to use that knowledge, something I never had when I was at school. We need to start seeing our educational establishments as more than exam conveyor belts. That system has never worked for everyone, even less so now and decreasingly in the future.

      1. Graham Robertson Post author

        That’s an interesting response. I can’t agree enough that what our young people need are skills. My Profile (a wee bit flippantly) says I’m a teacher of…children. I can’t help but feel as Secondary Teachers we’re too locked into our specialisms. I saw a lot of talk at the start of CfE of breaking down subject silos. I like that idea a lot. In my opinion we need to be “joining up” the thinking we do as specialists. Is the discussion I had with my S3 Adviser Group today on sexual health that far removed from the discussion group my colleague had on the impact of racism in “Of Mice and Men” – In terms of the skills required to conduct the discussion – not the content. A lot of what we already do in Secondary schools involves similar skills what CfE CAN help to do is make the connections which is exciting. I’ve got to say I’m a parent of a current S3 and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t concerned about her academic qualifications as I’m not convinced we’re ready to go with any of the new qualifications – what I am interested in though is the fact that my daughter should be getting a high quality grounding in the skills and techniques she needs to be an effective student and by extension human being. Ask her who found the dead sea scrolls and she doesn’t have a clue – she’ll look it up on the internet as we all do – ask her to discuss the validity of scripture and belief and the nature of religion and she’ll talk for hours. I know that’s the mark of an intelligent young person – not the dates and specifics. Facts can be found out – SKILLS need to be learned and nurtured. I’m rambling a bit – apologies and I’ll post clearer thoughts on this in time – if you’ll indulge me.

        Who was it that said the knowledge era is dead – we’re in the era of the skills era – don’t think it was me but I do subscribe to it.

        1. Philip Graham

          There is a fallacy being perpetuated by those who would rather continue to do what they have always done, how they have always done it. That fallacy is that “all this skills nonsense is rubbish because the pupils all need to still know stuff”. The two are inextricably linked. Skills depend on content – they cannot be learned without it. A mechanic needs to know the individual parts of a car’s engine, but more importantly, he needs to know how they connect and work together. If he comes across a part he has never seen before, he will need specific skills to assimilate it with what he already knows. I would not rate a mechanic who can simply rhyme off the parts of an engine. Similarly, training children towards sitting exams which are, in essence, tests of recall is not preparing them for what lies ahead and in no way reflects (as Graham’s daughter shows) an assessment of their whole or deep learning. Consider this: we examine young people by sitting them down on their own, usually with a piece of paper. For the rest of your life, one of the greatest skills you will develop is how you work with and collaborate with others in the pursuit of solutions to problems. If you refuse to do this, you will be sacked.
          And with 30% of young people changing course or dropping out after first year of university, one has to ask…what’s going on here?

          1. Philip Graham

            Sorry to go on, but I just saw the line “They need to know the basics before they can explore more interesting things”….tell that to a teacher of Primary 1 children. I don’t think they would recognise a difference.

  4. Philip Graham

    Paul – you’re right – your use of the word “entitlement” is another thing that bothers me. I am entitled to have my bin picked up and emptied by the council once a fortnight, but I also have the choice to lie in my bed and let the lorry go past, then take the rubbish to the dump later. Why does the word “entitlement” suddenly mean “everybody has to do it” whether they want to or not? The word “entitlement” requires choice to make it so. Choice currently seems to be either superficial or non-existent.
    Another couple of things:
    Are schools serving the pupils, or their buttock-clenching fear of inspections?
    Are “option” forms written for the benefit of the pupils, or for the peace-of-mind of the timetabler?
    If inspection improves education, we should have the best education system in the world by a country mile. Funny how countries that dissolved their inspectorate completely are doing quite well…..
    And finally, on Graham’s homogeneity point, and I would really like a genuine steer on this…what should the priorities of a school be if it has a Free Meal Entitlement of say, over 60%? Should they be the same as a school with say 30%? And I mean specifics here, not “maximising positive outcomes for young people”. I can get that off Anywhere Secondary’s Mission Statement.

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