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Knowledge and the curriculum

Knowledge and the curriculum

Today in such a changing society it would be impossible to have a national curriculum not reflecting such change. Living in a changing environment effects and changes what each individual in the state is expected to know. This is very much enlightened when living in a fast changing world where what was true yesterday turns to be false tomorrow. Who would ever have taught that the word Internet would have been mentioned in the National Minimum Curriculum in the late 80's and early 90's when it was still just a network with the aim of linking data between major Universities and in no one's vocabulary? Such change in education may be one aspect that has contributed to the philosophy adopted for the change in the national curriculum and this change has been designed with a clear vision in mind: Wahda mill-kwalitajiet ewlenin ta' dan id-dokument hija dik li jqieghed il-htigijiet ta' min qieghed jitghallem qabel kull ghan iehor. It-tfal, kemm meta ghadhom ckejknin, kif ukoll meta jsiru adoloxxenti, huma dejjem ic-centru tal-vizjoni kollha u ta' kull ippjanar u provvediment tieghu. Mary Vella - Curriculum Director, NMC, 1999 ..., hu mahsub li nimxu lejn edukazzjoni li taqdi l-bzonnijiet ta' kull student individwali. Charles Mizzi - Director of Education, NMC, 1999 There are in fact a lot more references to the new NMC that could be listed over here as proof that the learner is at the center of the vision. If we had to look at the two main ideas on which modern education may be argued we would boil down to Plato's liberal education and Rousseau's progressive and radical orientations. The vision mentioned above for the NMC clearly complies with the progressive orientation where the learner is put at the center. Such revolution, started by Rousseau, is quite important for us, as the new NMC is all about this: putting the learner at the center. People think only to preserving their child's life; this is not enough, he must be taught to preserve his own life when he is a man to bear the buffets of fortune, to brave wealth and poverty, to live at need among the snows of Iceland or on the scorching rocks of Malta. - Rousseau, Emile' This has been quite a change. If we had to look at the old national minimum curriculum, the question was What should we teach? and thus putting the knowledge at the center. On the other hand, there are other aspects that link the NMC to the other main theorist (mainly Plato and Dewey). An interesting point to mention would be the idea of justice which links our curriculum in the year 2000 to what the first curriculum, written by Plato, had mentioned 400 years B.C. In fact, the national curriculum starts with Justice and there is an assumption that we want the society to be socially just. These ideas show that after observing the various theories of curriculum that emerged throughout the history of philosophy, we cannot identify one in particular with which today's curriculum was designed. On the contrary, the result of the various theories is a rich outpouring of ideas about curriculum, ideas that continue to influence both reformers and traditionalists (Soltis J. F. & Walker D. F.). In fact, another contributor to this vision is Dewey who wanted to define education as growth. As mentioned at the beginning of this write-up, today the big challenge of education is change. The shadow minister has also pointed this out when I recently interviewed him on the new curriculum: jekk l-iskejjel taghna ma jinbidlux, hemm ic-cans li nkunu qed nghalmu tghalim tal-bierah. Such rapid change is happening because of technology and science. Information and skills that an individual may learn or 'possess' become outdated quickly and the person becomes obsolete as discussed during the recent lectures. The new NMC has included such change as part of its vision to the Maltese society. Besides clearly stating such awareness at the introduction, it has been discussed in a section on its own under the topic of An educational answer for the cultural, social and economic challenges: F'dinja li qieghda tinbidel b'ritmu mghaggel, il-komunita' edukattiva ghandha tifhem li l-idea li l-istudenti jistghu johorgu mis-sistema edukattiva obligatorja b'pakkett edukattiv li jservihom ghal ghomorhom tmur knotra r-realta' ta' dinja li l-hin kollu qed tinbidel... NMC, 1999 Today the keyword is lifelong learning. Living in the 21st century, being described as The Learning Age, means that knowledge and learning today are a very temporarily thing. This makes the traditional knowledge of education invalid. The principle function of schooling is not in producing pre-existing relation of production any more. We have the possibility for education as itself a potential force for change in society and culture. Such ideas are changing and need to change the way the learners learn. Teaching computer or I.T. could be a typical example where the rate in which subject content changes is extremely high due to the technological improvement. It would be useless to teach a particular computer program say Microsoft Word in itself if by the time the pupils leave school the program learned (and examined) will be changed, outdated and scraped out from the market. The aim instead is to learn how to learn, as by the time the pupils are out of school, they should be able to cope with the new changing technology. While teachers should put students in situations where they can practice their skills, they need to teach various skills such as how to think. The idea of University where one would 'acquire' a packet of knowledge and use it for the rest of life is today outdated and invalid. Till some years ago it was enough to have fathers teach their skills to their son and mothers to their daughters; they again would repeat the process with their children and so on. Even still, it is not the case of having the child learning something different from the parent. Today it's the case that what the child learns is different throughout all stages in life. This takes us to lifelong learning. As discussed during the lectures today this is a fact of life. If you don't learn, you don't survive, economically, socially and all the rest. Such vision is shown throughout the curriculum especially when it is clearly stated that: Il-kuncett ta' edukazzjoni tul il-hajja jfisser li l-istudenti johorgu mill-esperjenza kurrikulari obligatorja b'attitudnijiet u hiliet li jghinuhom ikomplu jitghallmu u jghixu b'mod effettiv u produttiv f'dinja li daqskemm hi eccitanti tista' tkun incerta. Today we need to give skills to our pupils amongst which the skill of learning, that is, knowing how to learn. Such vision will require teaching how to access information and where to find it rather than giving out information in itself. We need to teach how to use the Internet that is the biggest resource in computer (also mentioned by the curriculum various times). More areas that such curriculum vision would require within the Maltese society would be teaching how to use libraries, having social skills, interact and share. The teachers should help in social management skills. This NMC does not encourage traditional teaching, as it isn't concerned about teaching skills but teaching facts. Such approach would require a change in the methods the teachers use. As said by John Bencini, president of MUT, Zgur li l-edukazzjoni f'pajjizna trid tiffaccja sfidi kbar u dan il-kurrikulu ser ipoggi fuq l-ghalliema responsabbiltajiet kbar u godda li jistghu jgibu maghhom tibdil fil-kundizzjonijiet tax-xoghol taghhom. Again in an interview to the minister he remarked Hemm bzonn li nizviluppaw materjal edukattiv li igghelna nahsbu fuq is-socjeta' ta madwarna. This has been said in the NMC and certainly applies for our case. If we are having examinations designed in Malta for the Maltese society, we need to have the teaching resources that also reflect our curriculum's vision. On the other hand, we should not only focus on the inside view of the Maltese Society but should also follow the effect our education may have from its political environment and social-economic aspects as well mentioned at the objectives of the NMC. Our aims for partnership with the European Union should be reflected by the education. The learners in our society, should be knowledgeable about what effects EU may have on Malta, to mention just one. Such education may be well influenced by politics as power (from whoever may be in power). Power would be one of the two dimensions to the curriculum and power as domination is bad and removes justice. In such discussion we may remind that this curriculum was done in three versions with considerable change between the first and the last version. The vision of schools that should remove streaming and education should be inclusive and comprehensive has been 'masked' in the last version due to political reasons. To conclude, in this new curriculum it is not the case of having the objectives listed at the beginning and then simply a description of how each should be achieved but it is clearly seen that the vision & philosophy of the curriculum are consistent throughout. This shows that great planning has been involved in the design of this document.

Dewey J., The Child and the Curriculum, 1966. Ministry of Education, Creating the future together, 1999 Plato, 'The Simile of the Cave', The Republic. Rousseau, J.J., Emile. Skilbeck, M., School-based Curriculum Development, 1984, London, Harper and Row. Soltis J.F. & Walker, D.F., Curriculum and Aims, 1986, London: Teachers College Press Word Count: 1584

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