The lighting of a fire

I saw this the other day and can only surmise that the individual concerned was quite happy with ‘5-to-14’. When I was in industry if something was not Fit-For-Purpose it was changed or discarded and ‘5-to-14’ was not Fit-For-Purpose, it was decades old, a 20th Century concept being clung to by 20th Century teachers. I remember being given a piece of ‘advice’ by one such individual “…you tell them (pupils) what they need to know, they write it down …that’s it”.

Whether we like it or not CfE is here to stay. It’s really not that new or radical, John Dewey wrote a similar curricular review at the turn of the 20th Century. But for us it is the foundation on which we are to build a 21st Century education in Scotland. From what I can see (and read) CfE is an initiative to improve education from a pedagogical and professionalization viewpoint. There are many facets to it, but ultimately it comes down to making education child centred.What strikes me is that it’s not about resources or budget, nor is it about what we teach, but about an educational philosophy – a new paradigm, a new way of thinking about how we educate our young. I say “new”, but judging from some famous educational quotes maybe it should be “rediscovered”:

“I cannot teach anybody anything; I can only make them think.” – Socrates.

“You cannot teach a man anything; you can only help him find it within himself” –Galileo.

Finally, “Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire” – William Butler Yeats.

So much for the advice given earlier!

So what is the problem? Within the text of parts 1 & 2 of the Journey to Excellence the narrative states for teachers that, “…each should contribute to the highest quality outcomes for all learners… It is up to you to decide which ones you focus on and in what order.” (HMIe, 2006: 21). This last sentence appears to be handing “professional” responsibility to the educationalists and appears to be veering away from the past’s oversubscribed methods emanating from government. Could this be what scares them?

The expressed intention of CfE, as stated in building the curriculum 3 (2008),  is to “…avoid driving young people through the levels as fast as possible…is intended to give teachers and other staff the flexibility and scope to follow issues through…” (CfE, 2008: 5). Here the professionalism of the teacher is being recognised, giving a legitimate mandate to transform the educational experience of the pupils and change our teaching to enable the pupils to construct their own learning. Surely no professional would argue against this? Would they?

The documentation goes on to encourage us to be creative in planning pupils’ learning, providing activities that will take our pupils to the next level or “ZPD”. To facilitate this we will have to engage them in self and peer-assessment to enable them to identify “next steps”. For good teachers there’s nothing very radical here, just a mandate to lighting a fire (metaphorically) that will hopefully burst into an inferno of enthusiasm for education.

So, to answer my question – there is no problem. Maybe its best that the individual anonymously mentioned at the start has retired, now perhaps we can “rediscover” the truths of Socrates’ and Galileo’s observations and follow Butler Yeats and light some fires.

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About Gareth

Educator of children and teacher of Technology Interested in Engineering, Science and the Digital Media
This entry was posted in Curriculum. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to The lighting of a fire

  1. janethomson says:

    CfE. Why is there little reference to children’s affective domains? I think CfE are missing a huge opportunity here to develop children, or young people, to develop the capacities or dispositions for the 21st century society by not focusing on these and how to develop them.
    BTW, I would say it’s not the lighting of a fire but the flaming of the fire within children. We need to put the child at the centre and use what he/she knows already. Use what they have and build on that.

  2. Gareth says:

    From what I’ve see in the short time I’ve been in Education it has turned in to a job for some, ergo the child is no longer at the centre. Developing affective domains – good one for a TMRetreat!!

  3. PhysicsNick says:

    I personally believe that your opening premise is completely wrong. You state that you surmise that the teacher who recently retired must have been quite happy with 5-14.
    I didn’t detect that in Seonag’s original tweet.
    5-14 certainly had many disadvantages – we all know that. But at the time, it was trumpeted as being the best thing since the proverbial loaf.
    CfE will, eventually, be shown to be from the same mold in many aspects. In time.

    • Gareth says:

      Well mate, the individual concerned used the word ‘verbiage’ an aggressive use of the noun, I stand by what I said.
      5-14 ‘at the time’ yip, you’re right – 20th Century.
      Its Perspective, ‘glass half full’ or ‘half empty’? After all, life is what you make it, so for that matter is your working life. No system is perfect, I understand that, so lets engage positively and make the best of it for the sake of the pupils!

  4. Strongly disagree with the statement in previous comment “cfe will eventually, be shown to be from the same mould”
    If it does not live up to the potential then it will be teachers fault. Brain surgens don’t stop developing their technique, or refuse to take on techniques, If the law changes then lawyers relearn it etc, etc…..
    If we are to be considered professional, then we need to show it. Everyone needs to stop moaning and get on with it. Change develop etc or get another job!

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