When the ‘Successful Futures’ document was released, the focus on the 4 purposes and 6 areas of learning and experience took the lead in marketing how the new curriculum would engage all
practitioners. Whilst on holiday, it seems a while ago now, I read ’23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism by Ha-Joon Chang’.
Without going through all the economic arguments, and by acknowledging there will be many different opinions, what really made me sit up was a chapter on education. The author discussed how education doesn’t always translate to greater prosperity on a national level. He showed concern that a focus on a very narrow curriculum aimed at driving up the levels of prosperity avoids a true understanding of the purpose of education, in his opinion.
Firstly he lists areas of study that are under threat due to a limiting of subjects that are deemed to add no or very little value to economic growth e.g. History, Literature, Music etc He states,
“From a strictly economic point of view, teaching these subjects is a waste of time.”
“We teach our children these subjects because we believe that they will eventually enrich their lives and also make them good citizens.”
As funding becomes a significant and concerning issue in schools, the author states strongly that enriching the lives of pupils to allow them to become good citizens is crucial and we should therefore avoid underfunding subjects that will support this outcome. He places a strong emphasis on this being
key to education funding,
“Even though this justification for educational spending is increasingly under attack in an age in which everything is supposed to justify its existence in terms of its contribution to productivity growth, it remains a very important – in my view, the most important – reason to invest in education.”
I immediately thought of the focus in Wales on the 4 purposes.
If we consider each purpose in turn, do they provide the spring board for developing good citizens?
1) Ethical Informed Citizens: Here we will provide all pupils with a knowledge of the importance of considering others, using ethics and empathy to inform decisions, being driven by fairness and to realise that the voice of the pupil is key to decision making.
2) Ambitious and Capable Learners: By building up a body of knowledge, pupils will be able to use them in a variety of real life contexts. They will achieve this by setting high standards for themselves. Litearcy, numeracy and digital competancy come to the fore in this area.
3) Enterprising Creative Contributors: Perhaps this is often the forgotten purpose of eduction. To allow creativity to flow is crucial in developing the ability to apply their knowledge and skills in order to design, create and produce. These skills will be shared with others as they are given the confidence to support
thier peers, challenge ideas and work to the benefit of everyone.
4) Healthy and Confident Individuals: Well-being is a key aspect of this purpose, to develop their mind and their body. To understand what it means to be healthy. To challenge themselves but in a context of helping each other to overcome challenges. To build on their knowledge of how to become
independent with the skills that they require.
The purposes resonate the belief that Ha-Joong Chang regards as very important, that is, to develop good citizens, people that are allowed to be creative, unique but also respond to the need of working together for the benefit of all people.
This post is very different from my normal writing and as said at the beginning I’m sure that many economists will have counter arguments to those expressed by Ha-Joong Chang however, I believe his personal belief on education is reflected in the direction of the Curriculum for Wales and if his theories
are correct then it could lead to a society that could influence positively on how we work, how we treat each other and how we respond to challenge and responsibility thus leading to improvements in our economic ability as a nation.