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A curriculum for.... what?

I've recently been involved in setting up the new school council at my children's primary school. This is essentially the old school board reformulated and somewhat emasculated. It's been an interesting experience. During our discussions we touched upon the new Scottish curriculum - the "Curriculum for Excellence" as it's optimistically entitled.

The game is rather given away by the title, IMHO. I take it as one of life's cardinal rules that one should never trust anyone or anything that has applied to it this kind of trumpet-blowing epithet. A banker will look after your money, a "banking professional" will probably steal it. Steer clear of "nursing professionals" - you will find a nurse much more effective. Never eat at a restaurant which says that it serves "Good Food".

So we can be fairly certain that the Curriculum for Excellence is not a curriculum for excellence.  But what is it a curriculum for?

Let's take a look at an example of what Scottish children will be learning in the future. It covers the whole of the 5-14 curriculum by level:

Early years

I have collected and sorted materials which can be recycled.

Level 1

Through my experience of different materials which I use, I can talk about the need to conserve Earth’s resources at home and in school and what I can do to help.

Level 2

I can assess the sustainability of my school environment and by helping to create and carry out an action plan to make improvements I can record how my responsible actions make a difference over time.

I can give a presentation to demonstrate my understanding of the importance of the water cycle in nature.

I can talk about the importance of water supplies to people all over the world and can demonstrate ways to clean and conserve water.

Level 3

By carrying out a variety of chemical reactions I can show how different environmental conditions can impact on the sustainability of Earth materials to help understand the importance of conservation.

I can apply my knowledge of pH to monitor the environment and demonstrate ways to overcome extreme levels. I can recognise the significance of pH in everyday life.

Level 4 

I can collect and analyse experimental data on rates of reaction and use this to discuss the use and sustainability of Earth materials.

I can research a major environmental or sustainability issue of national or global importance and report on my findings.

I can monitor the environment by collecting and analysing samples. I can interpret the results to inform others about levels of pollution and express a considered opinion on how science can help protect our environment.

So I was certainly right that it's not a curriculum for excellence. It's a curriculum for conformity, a curriculum for political correctness and a curriculum for greenery. But not a curriculum for excellence.

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