The UK's new education program: 'Technology, not tradition'

The UK is about to undertake an ambitious change in how it educates its young.

The UK's primary school education program has remained roughly the same since it was instituted in 1904. That's all about to change.

As reported in The Times, the UK will soon introduce a series of sweeping changes to the nation's primary school education, "aimed at producing a curriculum for the 21st Century" which will see information technology classes given equal standing with English and Math.

Proponents of the new system argue that it's not a matter of discarding the core subjects of English, Math, Science, etc., but rather of teaching them in new ways in order to make them more easily digestible by students.

The material is proposed to be taught around six learning areas: understanding English, communication, and languages; mathematical understanding; scientific and technological understanding; human, social, and environmental understanding; understanding physical health and well-being; and understanding arts and design.

Sir Jim [Rose, author of the report,] said that combining traditional subjects in themed "learning areas" and introducing more practical and applied teaching would help pupils to make use of their knowledge in real-life situations, such as in managing their own finances.

The idea is to give teachers more latitude to cover topics in more depth, rather than breadth, and to take a cross-disciplinary approach.

Some critics suggest that the new approach risks leaving children with shallow foundations in core subjects like Math, which provide a firm foundation for appreciating and understanding other topics.

Advocates, for their part, believe that rote learning of dates and times tables can be a waste in an era when Google has all such information readily available at a mouse click.

For my part, I believe that anything that attempts to focus on quickly finding shortcuts to answers rather than teaching the process and rigor involved in coming up with those answers oneself dooms children to be consumers rather than producers. It's easy to find answers through Google. It's much harder to create Google.

This system does not necessarily "cheat" on building foundations for learning, but it seems to rely heavily on quality teachers to dig deep into their material and the students to make it work. I'm not sure I'd trust many of the teachers I had growing up to be able to apply such rigor to their classrooms.

Regardless, in my experience parents are fundamental to education sinking in and having an effect on children, so to the extent that it entices parents to take an interest in their children's education, that would overcome any deficiencies of the system itself.

Have a look at the full article and let me know what you think. Is this an improvement on the education you had growing up?

Tech Culture
About the author

    Matt Asay is chief operating officer at Canonical, the company behind the Ubuntu Linux operating system. Prior to Canonical, Matt was general manager of the Americas division and vice president of business development at Alfresco, an open-source applications company. Matt brings a decade of in-the-trenches open-source business and legal experience to The Open Road, with an emphasis on emerging open-source business strategies and opportunities. He is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not an employee of CNET. You can follow Matt on Twitter @mjasay.


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