Part 3 of GSE’s “What We Believe” Series:

It is certainly not a new phenomenon to argue and debate about a modern day curriculum, cluttered by a laundry list of new and competing priorities.

Circus skills and puppetry, personal finance, sex education, values, character, yoga, wearable art, surfing and an endless list of unique subjects aimed to either fix a community problem or engage children otherwise less interested in schooling. Not to dismiss that some of these ideas as not being really worthwhile but our desire to package up learning in unusual ways, challenges schools ability to be time efficient and productive. To quote many grandparents “it is no wonder our children can no longer read, write or complete basic arithmetic.” We have to fix the cluttered curriculum and get focussed on a streamlined pathway.

Spinning plates and the cluttered curriculum
Spinning Plates

Sometimes teachers feel like they are spinning plates. Teaching can feel like starting and maintaining one spinning plate on a stick, and then another and another. Eventually there are so many spinning plates that we are desperately racing from one plate to another, trying to maintain the balance on each stick before any slow down to that wobbly point of a near crash, or eventually crashing to the floor.

I would argue that it is time for decluttering and discarding the things in our lives that do not ‘spark joy’ or purpose. It is time to connect more deeply with our communities and at the very least share responsibility and strategy around these new areas and expanded curriculum. Topics traditionally taught at home are now passed off to schools. “Schools will fix it” has become the unofficial outcry as society faces more and more challenges or what some may describe as dysfunction.

The cluttered curriculum

A less cluttered curriculum can deliver greater scope to teach smarter by delivering learning across a range of subjects. If mapped and integrated effectively, we can show students how their learning can be applied to projects and build real-world skills. These models free up teaching time and can support students in their pursuit of personal interests. Students should be learning how to learn.

One of the biggest causes of the cluttered curriculum though is not just extra subjects and programs but also a focus on excessive testing of every syllabus point. Most syllabi were never designed to include testing of an inordinate quantity of measurable outcomes. Teachers can become so focussed on ensuring students are “test-ready” that they over teach every fine detail rather than remaining focussed on the thinking skills and application of overarching ideas.

 Syllabi need to be dramatically stripped down to focus on what is really essential in each subject and with a greater focus on literacy and numeracy. Back to basics does not mean “backwards.”

Core subjects can be very relevant. In fact core knowledge, applied in real world contexts, helps us integrate and in meaningful ways deliver improved outcomes and achievement. Purposeful learning ensures core content is taught in ways that engages children to see its focus and relevance. We can increase rigour as well as engagement.

Personalised and individualised learning requires us to decide what is relevant for children. There are some key benchmarks that are relevant for all but there is material sometimes taught that is not at all connected to a child’s current or future needs.

We also need to un-clutter teachers workload. Bureaucracy is burying teachers. Teachers need to have their administrative workload reduced so that they can focus more effectively on teaching and learning. Testing is important but over testing is laborious and distracts teachers and children from authentic learning. Record keeping and accountability is important but doing so “just for the sake of it” frustrates and demotivates teachers.

Let’s do more by doing less.

We should make a serious commitment to personalise learning for every child and allow each student a voice in what and how they learn. We need to allow teachers more freedom, within a professional and accountable framework. A systems approach rather than a high stakes testing approach will deliver much more for much less.

Please check out some of our other recent blogs:

Give Teachers Back Their Schools

Personality Type and Profile Conventions in School Leadership

CEO and Education Expert Greg Parry

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Internationally renowned for his expertise in education leadership, Greg Parry’s vast experience includes leadership of projects for edu-cation institutions throughout Australia, the Middle East, the United States, India, Indonesia, Malaysia and China. Recognised for his numerous contributions in the education arena, Greg has received the Ministers Award for Excellence in School Leadership based on improvements in school performance and a range of successful principal training and leadership development programs, as well as the School of Excellence Award for Industry/School Partnerships and the School of Excellence Award for Technology Innovation. His company GSE (Global Services in Education) has been recognised as having the Best Global Brand in International Education in 2015 and 2016.

Considered one of the premier experts in his profession, Greg has trained teachers and principals throughout the world in areas such as critical thinking, language development and leadership. His expertise in school start up projects, leadership and curriculum development, has made him a sought after authority in these disciplines.

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