A decision this week by one of Scotland’s 32 local authorities to delay the introduction of new national qualifications has re-ignited the debate over the implementation of the revised curriculum guidelines, and raises a number of important issues. With one media commentator referring to the aforementioned council as a ‘flagship authority’ (one wonders in what sense an authority which is, by its own admission, unprepared for changes it has known about for at least two years can be described as a ‘flagship authority’), you have to ask yourself whether those in the mainstream media have really made an effort to understand the extent of the changes, or whether they are happy to perpetuate the simple notion that successful educational outcomes and good exam results are one and the same thing. This kind of conservatism is disappointing, though hardly surprising, but increasing resistance from some within the secondary sector begs the more serious question of whether real change and ‘joined-up learning’ can actually be achieved in our secondary schools within the restricting constraints of timetables which send young people on a daily tour of subject departments.
This question was uppermost in my mind again today when a friend on Twitter directed me to the Big History Project, a scheme described as ‘an attempt to understand, in a unified way, the history of Cosmos, Earth, Life and Humanity’, initiated by the Anglo-American historian Dr David Christian and supported by Bill Gates. I suppose it may be asking too much that all our young people leave school with a complete understanding of life and the history of the universe, but wouldn’t it be good if we were able to give them more of the bigger picture than a few random pieces of the jigsaw?