Gove calls for a more international curriculum

20 Jun 2010

A little noticed aspect of the Education Secretary Michael Gove's speech last week at the National College was his call for a more international curriculum.

He said he wanted to "ensure our national curriculum is a properly international curriculum".

Specifically, he said he wanted to take from the most successful curricula around the world, and cited - in particular - the Massachusetts state curriculum and the approach taken in countries of the Pacific Rim.

On testing, he said he wanted 11 year-olds to sit tests comparable to those taken in Singapore and in science he wanted 16 and 18 year-olds to take qualifications "directly comparable with those in Taiwan or Toronto".

Mr Gove did not give any further details so it was not clear whether these comments were motivated by admiration of the generally good educational results in these countries and states or whether he had particular reforms in mind.

For example, the Massachusetts curriculum includes foreign languages at elementary level.  The state's guiding principles for the "language arts curriculum framework" are also extensive and impressive. They include a desire for all pupils to access the great tradition of literature from the English-speaking world but also place strong emphasis on speaking and listening skills and on all forms of media, including TV, internet and video.

The Massachusetts framework is at: www.doe.mass.edu/CandI/commoncore/

Singapore is interesting too - its system gets very good academic results but the Singapore Education Ministry has in recent years become concerned that pupils are not doing a sufficiently broad curriculum and are not being taught to problem-solve or thinking skills. So Singapore's primary school system is changing, with greater encouragement for arts,  music and PE and more extra-curricular activities.

It is also not clear how Mr Gove's interest in these curricula, some of which are quite detailed, matches with his otherwise stated desire for a minimalistic curriculum.

No doubt we will learn more soon. Meanwhile teachers remain puzzled about his intentions in areas like the primary curriculum and the future of diplomas. See: news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/10355207.stm

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