Sunday, July 31, 2005
Schools to develop their own curriculums!
More back to the future!
This small book, written by Rachel Bolstad and published by the NZCER, was originally commissioned by the Ministry of education as part of their curriculum revision committee – what used to be euphemistically called a ‘stock take’; a process to ‘thin down’ the curriculum ‘to decide what is worth teaching’.
The book is worth a read for all those who feel it is important for the staff of schools to take a greater part on developing their own curriculums to suit their students needs as an alternative to the current ‘top down or centralized curriculum’.
The rationalizations for School Based Curriculum Development ( SBCD) includes that the school is best suited to plan or design the curriculum and to construct the teaching and learning’; and that such planning is an ‘integral part of teachers professional identity’; and that it 'allows the school to be responsive to students and community needs’.
All good stuff but hardly new. The book ‘searches’ of course the ‘literature’ but is a bit light on referring to the countless primary school who developed their own curriculums before Tomorrows Schools. They do not even refer to an inspirational book written in the 60s by Elwyn Richardson ‘In The Early World’ reprinted by their own organization. To be fair school based curriculum development in those early days was more led by creative individual teachers. They do say, however, that SBCD was at its zenith worldwide in the 70s and 80s before the educational reforms of 1989.
The challenge, the book says, will be for schools to develop curriculums that ‘are sufficiently flexible to respond to every student learning needs’. This ought to have been the vision of education from the beginning and perhaps the ‘authorities’ should realize, that in the ‘information age’, the ‘curriculum has left the building’ and education is now ‘available anywhere anytime’
The book argues for a move towards SBCD to fit the ‘current context and planned future directions for New Zealand schooling.’
Of course the writers, (working with Ministry), are quick to point out that SBCD, although not directly mentioned, is inclusive in the current NZ Curriculum Framework document in which it says it provides, ‘for flexibility, enabling schools and teachers to design programmes which are appropriate to the learning needs of their students’ – they however don’t mention the negative effect of Education Review Office on such developments or how to accommodate the intricacies of NCEA.
Several examples of SBCD from both primary and secondary are included in the booklet.
The book is well worth getting for schools who want to move into the area of ‘personalized learning’ to enable them to tailor education to the needs of their students. It signals a ‘first step’ in a shift from a ‘top down’ mentality which is welcomed, a shift that could well be the beginning of a real educational transformation.
As I said – well worth acquiring. And it is only $16 from NZCER!