Does the education curriculum need an overhaul?

There are days when I wonder how the New Zealand education curriculum got to its current state. In an age of computers and digital communications, how are we delivering basic curriculum content to our students and are the delivery methods appropriate?

When I was taught English at school, there were parts of the syllabus that were frankly mystifying. As someone who was then planning to make a career in volcanology, how was Shakespeare going to help me? I think report writing would have been more useful. As such a broad subject (film, literature, structural English). Although I did definitely learn a lot, I wonder how many people today would know what an acronym, a synonym or things like proverbs, and adverbs are. Credit to them, but sadly for New Zealanders and our education I know people from European countries where English is not their native language and yet they speak and write it better than many New Zealanders.

I mentioned the problems afflicting science yesterday, but it is worth pointing out that perhaps in addition to chemistry, biology and physics teachers having a few in earth sciences might not go astray either. Generally the curriculum of science – if the bulk of it is still structured around these three core subject areas – is fine, but the delivery in terms of assessment, along with the “War on Science” is crippling it as a teaching discipline. I don’t expect that anyone will have been able to mix Rubidium or Caesium with water, but this area more than any other needs decent practical assessments.

I think though that everyone should do Legal Studies, or some other law-based subject matter introducing them to how the legal system works, the components of it such as the Courts, the Police, Corrections and so forth. It should include a segment on how Parliament works, ones human and civil rights as well as their responsibilities before the law. People might argue that it is inappropriate to introduce students to politics. I would counter argue that it is even more inappropriate for them to not know how the legal system, its components and functions work and their rights and responsibilities before it.

For me Social Studies was probably my favourite compulsory course. I did okay in most of the others, but looking at geography, society and what was happening around the world at the time I found fascinating. Whether it was looking at how indigenous peoples live or following politics in New Zealand I was for the most part hooked. In saying that I believe by the time everyone finishes Year 10, they should be able to name all of New Zealand’s major mountains, at least some of the major rivers and lakes, all the major towns and cities and show where they are on a map – the number of people who cannot is shocking.

And then there is Maths. A subject I was excelling at at Primary School until I had a catastrophic Maths teacher in 1988 who completely – and possibly permanently – inverted my whole understanding of it. After that it was without doubt my least favourite subject, and one that I have not achieved School Certificate/Year 11 for. Perhaps that makes me not qualified to comment, but I would like to say that I noted in 1988 that we would be given a pile of little plastic pieces – a mix of sticks and little cubes. One cube equalled 1. A stick equalled 10. We were supposed to show a number using them. So, 18 would be one stick and eight cubes. How maths gets taught now I do not know, but I hope that the working still has to be shown on paper before it can be done on computers.

If you, the reader knows anyone in the teaching profession, ask them to have a look at this and find out what they think.

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