An article in the Daily Mail today details the new primary school curriculum proposed by Education ministers. The curriculum would ensure that IT skills such as using internet search engines and emailing are given greater significance than in the past. Also, there will be ‘theme’ based lessons that will focus on such things as ‘well being’ and ‘health living.’ Crucially though, the new emphasis on ‘theme’ based learning will result in a reduction in time spent teaching subjects such as Geography and History. These subjects will be merged into a new humanities class.
Nobody doubts the importance of IT skills. In a high tech world, computer based communication tools are ever increasingly important. Naturally, IT skills do have a place both at primary and secondary level education. However, the question is to what extent does a primary school need to emphasise those skills in relation to knowledge based subjects such as Geography and History? As we move further into a globalised world, topics like Geography and History gain greater importance than they have done before. These topics are essential to understanding the world around us and Britain’s place in history.
The issue of lessons on themes such as ‘well being’ and ‘healthy living’ is slightly different. Is it the role of the state to teach children about lifestyle? One could easily argue that this is another example of the nanny state government trying to tell people, from the cradle to the grave, how they should live their lives. Parents clearly have a responsibility to provide a balanced diet and teach their children about the benefits of staying active and healthy. If they are not doing this to a sufficient level, this is failure in parenting and not a failure in government.
It is only fair that taxpayers expect a balanced education for their children whereby they gain in-depth knowledge and life skills. Education is more than preparing people for employment. It is about gaining an understanding of the world around us so individuals can become good citizens which in turn will facilitate a richer and more responsible society. The real danger for the taxpayer is that, under the proposed new curriculum, we will be funding an education system where pupils have the skills but not necessarily the knowledge.