Curriculum unlimited

The whole notion of the school curriculum has, in recent times, been subjected to insistent pressures and numerous reviews. In fact, we are awaiting the recommendations of a review into the NSW curriculum to ensure it is ‘preparing students to meet the challenges and opportunities of the 21st century.’ The realisation that the Industrial Age has given way to the Knowledge Age means we are obligated to continually question the nature and relevance of the school curriculum as we have come to know it.

There are many schools that have begun the process of thinking deeply and creatively to ensure the curriculum is fully aligned with a contemporary understanding of today’s learners and what it means to learn in today’s world. Schools are challenged to offer alternatives to an outdated and industrial construct that limits the curriculum to lists of discrete subjects, courses of study or key learning areas.

As I have often suggested here and in other public forums, we need a learning framework that is appropriate to this age; intended to promote students’ growth and learning.

I recently had the opportunity to visit Ormiston Junior College in New Zealand. For the past two years the school has been led by Luke Sumich, whom I have known for many years. Every time I see Luke in action, I’m blown away by his enthusiasm and his commitment to changing the lives of young people through a great schooling experience. He is one of the most passionate and practical school leaders I know.

By way of some background, Ormiston is located in the southern suburbs of Auckland. It is a community not without challenges but Luke has created a culture of respect, innovative teaching practice, excellence and ongoing professional learning to deliver the best outcomes for each student.

What was most impressive was allowing students to pitch for what they would like to learn, how they would like to learn it and what level they aspire to reach in relation to the outcome. The students make their case similar and receive feedback from a panel. While this might appear to be an ‘anything goes’ approach to learning, it is highly structured, rigorous and collaborative. Throughout the process, students are required to report on their learning, demonstrate progress and present evidence (similar to defending a thesis).

While this approach may not be considered the ‘norm’, I applaud Ormiston and schools like Templestowe College who are responding to the signs of the times and ensuring students understand the value and purpose of what they are learning and why.

Here is Luke talking about the New Zealand Curriculum in the context of their learning community.

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