Crowding the curriculum

Some interesting articles in the weekend papers calling for the teaching of martial arts and alcohol education in schools to address the issues of bullying and binge-drinking.

It seems that whenever there is a need to change behaviours or address attitudes we look to the curriculum.  Is this the role of a curriculum?  Is it the responsibility of schools?

If the role of schools is to promote the growth of students and their learning – to teach students them how to be critical thinkers and responsible citizens, then shouldn’t this naturally lead to a change in behaviours?

I think the calls to introduce things like for example, alcohol education, while important social issues, only muddy the waters.  As John Hattie has said debate seems to be fixated on the test-outcome-based questions rather than an intelligent debate about what is worth ‘preserving in our society, and what is worth knowing in order to live the desired ‘good life’.

In an era of information and curriculum overload, it is important for the profession to discern which knowledge is significant and timely.  Just-in-time learning (learning that is relevant to students’ lives) must be given priority over the just-in-case learning which can so easily crowd the learning.

As Michael Fullan says we must be relentless focussed on the things that actually make a difference.  This means continually reminding ourselves of what’s really important in the work of the school.  Martial arts and alcohol education may be helpful but is it essential?

Education Minister Adrian Piccoli made an excellent point in relation to alcohol education, which is parents also have an important role in educating their children.  Pauline Lysaght, Associate Director Early Start at the University of Wollongong believes that while teachers are influential in reinforcing behaviours within the school context, the responsibility for establishing a knowledge base and encouraging behaviours rests with parents.

When there are vigorous calls to continually pare down the curriculum (similar to Singapore’s approach), why do we waste valuable time proposing ways of over-loading it?


2 thoughts on “Crowding the curriculum

  1. In a mature society, everyone participates in “raising the child.” When society models and promotes mature behaviours, schools won’t constantly be called on to fill in the gaps, and can focus on nurturing children’s natural love of learning, creating the “critical thinkers and responsible citizens” that will make a difference to our society and to the world. As Oscar Romero said, to see the Kingdom, we need to “step back and take a long view,” not be bulldozed by everyone else’s priorities. Teachers keep the faith and vision alive!

  2. Greg,
    This week I was in a parent forum on our 1:1 notebook program for our year 6 students supporting parents understanding the need to adapt some of our practices at home and at school. One comment I kept repeating is that our role as educators is to help the parents educate their children. Its a small twist on the perception of the role of schools – anyway I think it applies to these sorts of pressures parents and general community face – its not necessarily about adjusting the curriculum and trying to do more but supporting parents and young people to have the conversations at home and to do that we need to think creatively. One parent asked could I put some stuff on the some website for them, others thought a short podcast of me talking to a few parents, others wanted the questions we used with young people about in this case the reasonable or balanced use of technology in the home. So summary – its our role to help the parents educate their young people …. welcome feedback?

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