Scottish Welsh Curriculum Crisis

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        There has been recent criticism of Scotland’s Curriculum for Excellence, which the new Welsh school's Curriculum has been derived from. The Scottish Government has now invited the O.E.C.D to review of their ten-year-old Curriculum. The review is not intended to review the fundamental principles of the 'Curriculum for Excellence' however.


        The Scottish 2018 Pisa results rose from 49.3% to 50.4% in reading, which is a 1.1% rise.  The drop in Scottish maths scores from 49.1% to 48.9% by 0.2% is so insignificant it is not worth referring to it. The science drop from 49.7% to 49.0% is 0.7%. is not that great. These are such marginal changes, it does not justify any political bickering over standards.


        The B.B.C. claims that the Scottish Government wants its education system to be world-class. They do not want Scotland to be average. Michael Gove when he was English education minister, did not want English education system to be average either, but nothing has significantly changed since then.

      Gove's reforms, his demand for rigour in the English education system, has not lead to significant changes in the 2018 Pisa rankings. All the changes were around 1%.


        Professor Sue Garthercole, who is in Cambridge Institute of Brain, which have been researching how to support children with learning difficulties for several decades, has claimed there is no 'magic bullet' that can resolve children's learning difficulties. Socio-economic status has a profound influence on children's educational attainment. She referred to a report on assessed standard in the basic skills in England over 50 years up to 2010 in her Lernus lecture, which she claimed found that there has been no change in standards for the last 30 years.

   Dylan Wiliam refers a whole raft of government reforms that have been tried and failed. The primary literacy and numeracy hour initiative in Wales and England was a commendable one. It was researched-based, but it did only marginally raised standards.

         John Swinny Scottish Education minister has now claimed he wants Scotland to reflect Finnish education. There in no need for him to purchase an air ticket to go there. There are educators from many countries, who have visited three over the last two decades, but they have found it impossible to adopt their system in their countries.

    Pasi Shalsberg, a leading Finnish educator, has repeatedly explained why the Finish model cannot be adopted in other countries.


         Professor Dylan Wiliam, who lectures on education across the world, has claimed that Pasi Shalsberg has stated that one of the reasons why Finland has such high educational standards is because Finnish is a regular language. It is easy to learn to read in. He states the Finnish are avid readers.
 
         English is one of the most difficult languages in the world to learn. This is why 10% of English speakers have dyslexia. In other languages it is less.


    Pasi Shalsberg has referred to Pisa as a virus. The evidence is the Scottish Government has caught it. It is reasonable to suggest that the political attack upon the Scottish Government, as was reported by the B.B.C., was severe and disproportionate.

         The problem with educational reform is that they promise improvement, but the outcome is uncertain, while the present. the status quo is known, it offers certainty. The Pisa results are not sufficient to merit a change of course in Scottish education. The evidence, as Gunn (2020), argued is that the Pisa estimated average scores is a lottery, but there is evidence that more deeper concerns about the Scottish Curriculum of Excellence exists.
   
The Concerns about the Scottish Curriculum

 A key report in February 2020 established that few schools in Scotland were rated excellent on key measures (Seith, 2020). This in a curriculum that was introduced in 2010. Gayle Gordon, head of inspection curriculum development Education Scotland is quoted as saying.

         "Areas for improvement, said inspectors, included achieving consistently high-quality learning and teaching; continuing to improve the reliability and validity of teachers’ judgements about how well pupils were progressing; improving the monitoring and tracking of children’s and young people’s progress, skills and attainment over time; and the teaching of equality and diversity."

         In South Korean parents inspect the quality of teaching. There is no evidence that any teaching was taking place in the Seoul School that children from Pembrokeshire learnt in on the 2016 B.B.C. "School Swap: South Korean Style" program. School inspectors were assessing teachers teaching and children learning in Scottish Schools, unlike Andreas Schliecher, who only refers to statistics and children's responses in Pisa surveys. 


 Curran () argues that Scottish Education, which was once the envy of the world, has been too progressive. He refers to the words being used to describe the 'Curriculum for Excellence' as ‘vague’, ‘lacking in clarity’ and ‘wishy washy.' Hirsch () refers to France and Sweden, who had excellent elementary systems, who wrecked their curriculum through giving schools too much autonomy. He contend changed their system in a desire to create improvement.
 

          There is the question of whether aiming for constantly improving school standards is chasing a magic bullet solution. The problem with happiness is the more people strive for it, the more it will elude them. This appears to apply to dream of improving school standards.

          There are those like the Director of Education Glasgow who claims she is very satisfied with the new curriculum. Dylan Wiliam () contends that poor curriculum taught well is better than an excellent curriculum taught badly. There is the issue of whether the "Curriculum for Excellence" is too complicated for teachers and children.

       There is evidence with the developing school-based curriculums in England, which is being policed by Ofstead, is that they are becoming a school-based window dressing initiatives. Schools are declaring themselves as 'knowledge-rich', but it is an open-ended statement. Does it mean that schools that do not declare this ambition are knowledge poor?

Is the Philosophical Learning Base of the Curriculum Valid

       Neil Thomas Neuro-sciencist refers to a cycle of fashion in educational changes. He argues that reliable, relevant cognitive science research may bring stability to the school system. The reason why the National Curriculum was introduced was because of unevenness of the curriculum and standards in schools. There primary schools in the Welsh valleys in deprived Welsh valleys, which awarding As for children's work, which in other schools would have been awarded a Cs.


       There is evidence that the Scottish curriculum, as Curran contents in the T.E.S., is reverting to the child-centred ideals of the 1960 that is associated with the Plowden Report into primary education. Professor John Sweller () has contended that discovery learning does not work. The Cockcroft Report into mathematical education in 1982, which took five years to research and compile, stated the following about problem-solving:-


249 The ability to solve problems is at the heart of mathematics. Mathematics is only 'useful' to the extent to which it can be applied to a particular situation and it is the ability to apply mathematics to a variety of situations to which we give the name 'problem solving'. However, the solution of a mathematical problem cannot begin until the problem has been translated into the appropriate mathematical terms. This first and essential step presents very great difficulties to many pupils - a fact which is often too little appreciated. At each stage of the mathematics course the teacher needs to help pupils to understand how to apply the concepts and skills which are being learned and how to make use of them to solve problems.”

It reasonable to suggest this does not support the concept of learning new concepts through problem solving. This is consisted with John Sweller's research on cognitive overload.


     If the learning of multiplication tables is considered, for instance, which a proportion of children have struggled to learn over generations fluently, they would struggle to learn them incidental to through applying maths, especially in
 There is the issue of what is precisely meant by problem solving. There can be debates about what it means. The first stage in problem-solving is to research what is known, including what is understood. If children understand the basic concept of areas, for instance, they will be more inclined to successfully solve area problems, because they will be able to concentrate more on the problem.


      There is a distinction between open-ended problems, those which have predictable outcomes, and those that have unpredictable outcomes, respectively. The problem with open ended problems, such as when attempt to solve areas problems, is the outcomes can create outcomes that do not make what needs to be learn from the activity explicit, such as if fractional outcomes, which will retard the development of understanding. Gunn (2010) contends that in new language learning, that everyday language is not constructed for a learning purpose, and constantly practising it may not create effective learning.


      There is also the issue of subject blending. What is referred to interweaving where two subjects may be blended together in a single lesson. There is the issue of whether the blending of lessons make less explicit the subject boundaries and concepts like historical reasoning. There is also whether the blending of subjects create contrived lessons, because the process of creating skills like historical reasoning will be most effectively creating within a subject through developing appropriate sequencing.  


            There is also the issue with the introduction of new technologies and subjects is whether they have intrinsic learning value. Dylan Wiliam () argues that know one can know with certainty what children will face in the future and that certain current technologies may be developed in unexpected ways. It must be accepted that children should be introduced to new technologies, but there is the issue of how extensively they should be introduced. Kotrz () refers to their being ‘trade-offs’ in all curriculum development. It is important that education concerns what is most useful, enabling to children. It is far from assured that all children need to develop the advanced mathematical skills that Andreas Schleicher is claiming all children need to do.


Plenary

        Professor David Reynolds (2010), who is an authority on school effectiveness, and has reviewed educational systems across the world argues that what is practiced in other countries may not be transferable to others. The fact that Far East children obtain high Pisa scores and ranking does not mean that children unquestionably possess the higher order reasoning skills that is implied by the score. There is evidence of a heridtary factor in the development of fluid intelligence, reasoning skills.

      Donaldson child-centred educational visions is consistent with the Plowden Report 1967. It also consistent with the reforms that were made to the excellent French and Swedish elementary schools systems, which gave curriculum autonomy to its school, in child-centred curriculum initiative as Hirsch (2018) refers to. The child-centred approach to learning failed in primary schools.


       The pressure that has been placed upon schools to reform has been created by Pisa and the ideals that it has created. If the primary literacy and maths hours initiative is considered the could not have been a more thought-out and researched initiative. A vast amount of time and research has gone into them. The Insitute of the Brain in Cambridge University has clinics with children’s who possess learning difficulties. They have established that there is no ‘magic bullet’ solution to resolving their difficulties.


       Plomin geneticist has claimed that however much schooling is improved that half the population will be average. It is a crude line, because most children, as with height will be clustered around the mean. There is evidence that attempting to squeeze every ounce out of children’s school performance is smashing their attitudes and confidence. There will and always be a price to be paid when new curriculum’s are developed, standards can often drop as they are bedded in.


        There is evidence that the curriculum’s being developed in England are becoming a political window dressing initiative at school level. The problem is that when Governments have poor Pisa rankings or their school standards are questioned, then they are expected to do something. Whether the actions address the most important areas that need attention is questionable.

 

A full paper is being prepared for the Welsh Institute of Affairs.