Important aspects for education and for a curriculum in the C21st

In one of my uni courses this week we were asked to reflect on the question: “What do you see as some of the important aspects for education and for a curriculum in the C21st?”.  It’s something I often think about but here are some of my thoughts at present.

71878108_709b04c40d_mIn July of this year, I attended the annual Ann D Clark lecture at Penrith’s Joan Sutherland theatre.  This year’s speaker was Presidential Chair and associate dean for Global and Online Education, Yong Zhao.  Yong was very thought-provoking and inspiring and spoke a lot about current aspects of education and curriculum and how they are not necessarily appropriate for the need to create entrepreneurial and creative students.  He raised some very valid points and in his book, World Class Learners: Educating Creative and Entrepreneurial Students, he dedicates an entire chapter to why a common curriculum and set of standards will not help our current and future generations of students.

The mission statement provided in the newly implemented Common Core State Standards (CCSS) of the US indicates that one purpose for its implementation is “to compete successfully in the global economy” (Zhao, 2012, p. 26).  Should the 21st century curriculum and other aspects of education be focused on the economy?  Well, I guess that it is the economy that keeps jobs alive and generally helps society to keep going as it has for so long.  Zhao also goes on to delve into the newly implemented Australian National Curriculum, and when he compares it to the US CCSS he finds that they have very similar rationales, being that they intend to create “equity, efficiency, and quality for all students to compete successfully in the global economy” (Zhao, 2012, p. 28-29).  The globalisation aspect for education and curriculum appears to be critical in the eyes of some.  Does the Australian National Curriculum foster and enable this?

3620335406_691b16543e_mWe are in the knowledge management age and that of globalisation as well so I believe personally that education, and certainly the National Curriculum, should provide opportunities for students to enter into this world with the knowledge and skills needed to be creative and entrepreneurial citizens.  Chinnammai (2005) says that students need to become global citizens, “intelligent people with a broad range of skills and knowledge to apply to a competitive, information based society” (p. 1).  Does the new national curriculum provide a broad enough scope of skills and knowledge applicable to an information-based society?  I don’t think so, I think it is far too content heavy and that students and teachers alike, get lost in the content and learning for the sake of exams, that they do not develop the necessary skills required by a global citizen.

Chinnannai (2005) also points out that “The introduction of technology into the classroom is changing the nature of delivering education to students is gradually giving way to a new form of electronic literacy , more programs and education materials are made available in electronic form, teachers are preparing materials in electronic form; and students are generating papers, assignments and projects in electronic form” (p. 2).  However, what guidelines are included in the national curriculum to guide the expectations of what students should be able to do with technology when they leave school, in order to be global citizens.  I believe that technology is a critical part of 21st century education and beyond.  Any national curriculum should include a continuum of skills that students develop as they progress throughout their schooling, that will guide their acquisition of technical skills required when they leave school.  It can’t be all content focused, we have to be realistic about what they crucially require when they enter the workforce and other study areas.  I therefore also believe that 21st century education systems, and certainly the national curriculum, needs to provide scope for differentiation and individualised pathways of learning and development to cater for all students’ needs, abilities and future endeavours, regardless of a special needs or giftedness.

References

Chinnammai, S. (2005, November). Effects of globalisation on education and culture. In ICDE International Conference.

Zhao, Y. (2012). World class learners. Educating creative and entrepreneurial students.

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