• No results found

SOME GENERAL CURRICULUM QUESTIONS

In document Secondary Education in Tasmania (Page 95-103)

THE EDUCATIONAL PROGRAM

3.3 SOME GENERAL CURRICULUM QUESTIONS

The r e c o n c i l i a t i o n o f general and p r e - v o c a t i o n a l education

In 1968 a major review o f Tasmanian education by t h e School i n Society Committee d e f i n i t i v e l y concluded t h a t schooling t o Year 10 should p r o v i d e a general education, "an education emphasising general ideas, knowledge and s k i l l s , i . e . those which have the

widest and most s i g n i f i c a n t relevance." (13) I n t h e present review the Committee on Secondary Education has attempted t o balance two needs: f i r s t , t h e

requirement f o r a general education t h a t f o l l o w s from t h e way i n which s o c i e t y i s developing and from -T~~ the Committee has formed about t h e process

of secondary education and secondly, the widespread demand not o n l y from employers but from educators t h a t schools need t o be more aware o f t h e world of work.

The Committee's basic t h i n k i n g i s i n a l i f e - c y c l e framework i n which secondary education should n o t be c l e a r l y d i s t i n g u i s h e d from t h e subsequent l i f e -

experience of students. A c c o r d i n g l y i t has accepted t h a t secondary education must take account o f student's subsequent e n t r y i n t o work or a f u r t h e r stage of

education. This " t a k i n g account o f " i s seen as r e l a t i n g both t o t h e o r g a n i z a t i o n of schools and t h e p r o v i s i o n of a c u r r i c u l u m which can be seen t o be r e l a t e d t o a f u t u r e f o r the i n d i v i d u a l .

So f a r as school o r g a n i z a t i o n i s concerned i t i s the l i f e - d e t e r m i n i n g choices t h a t students make a t

school t h a t are i m p o r t a n t : the choice of p a r t i c u l a r courses, the streaming of s t u d e n t s , the d e c i s i o n to leave school a t a p a r t i c u l a r stage. In s h o r t t h e c r u c i a l element i s t h e process by which students can become locked i n t o or o u t o f the sequences t h a t lead t o success i n g a i n i n g a j o b , access t o a career or t o f u r t h e r education and, e v e n t u a l l y , access t o a given p o s i t i o n i n our status-conscious s o c i e t y . I t i s i n the recommendations made l a t e r i n t h i s r e p o r t about the grouping of s t u d e n t s , about support f o r students when they have t o make important d e c i s i o n s about t h e i r f u t u r e and the postponing of l i f e - d e t e r m i n i n g choices f o r as long as p o s s i b l e i n t h e secondary school t h a t the Committee has most c l e a r l y demonstrated i t s concern about t h e t r a n s i t i o n from schooling t o work and the p r e - v o c a t i o n a l element o f education.

However, i n t h i s s e c t i o n o f the r e p o r t t h e Committee i s concerned w i t h questions o f t h e o v e r a l l

scope of t h e secondary c u r r i c u l u m . I t recommends

t h a t the a p p r o p r i a t e education f o r young people a t the present time i n the development of our s o c i e t y i s a general education. This "general education" r e q u i r e - ment i s not met through the p r o v i s i o n of numerous, d i f f e r e n t courses i n order t h a t a l l students can g e t

at l e a s t some k i n d o f e l a b o r a t i o n . Rather we mean by " g e n e r a l " t h a t :

What i s taught should c o n s i s t of those c e n t r a l s k i l l s , ideas, and e v a l u a t i o n s which can be most s i g n i f i c a n t l y and w i d e l y used i n order t o deal w i t h l i f e i n our times. This n o t i o n i s i n c o n t r a s t to t h a t which holds general education t o be a survey of g e n e r a l l y e v e r y t h i n g . (14)

This view f o l l o w s not o n l y from the primacy which the Committee would g i v e to producing competent persons who " t h i n k and f e e l as educated men and women f e e l " (15) and are more able t o experience a rewarding and f u l f i l l i n g l i f e through t h e i r possession of p r a c t i c a l s k i l l s and t h e i r a b i l i t y to use l e i s u r e c o n s t r u c t i v e l y . I t has also been accepted because the Committee i s convinced t h a t a general education o f f e r s a much b e t t e r p r e p a r a t i o n f o r a f u t u r e working l i f e than an education which takes a narrower view of v o c a t i o n a l competence.

In i t s evidence the Committee received a small number of submissions which challenged the view

t h a t our secondary program should be g e n e r a l . These submissions argued f o r a much stronger p r e - v o c a t i o n a l emphasis. I t was suggested t h a t p r i o r i t y should be given to meeting the "demands of employers", t h a t much g r e a t e r a t t e n t i o n should be given to "the basic s k i l l s " , and t h a t students should be t r a i n e d i n school i n ways of p r e s e n t i n g themselves t o f u t u r e employers and

customers. We have heard much i n the general community i n recent months about the r e s p o n s i b i l i t y of schools t o give employers a " s u i t a b l e product", as i f the schools were a components f a c t o r y supplying a manufacturer w i t h a p a r t he could use i n h i s e n t e r p r i s e . The Committee considers t h a t such views are not only a l i e n t o the purposes of education but are also u n r e a l i s t i c i n terms of the demands of modern work.

The e d u c a t i o n a l program of secondary schools needs, to include a general o r i e n t a t i o n t o the student's

f u t u r e involvement i n work. However, s c h o o l i n g should not be seen as a p r e p a r a t i o n f o r p a r t i c u l a r v o c a t i o n s : t h i s would be a n a c h r o n i s t i c , r e l a t i n g to a w o r l d t h a t has passed. As the School i n Society Committee s a i d :

V o c a t i o n a l competence today depends l e s s on the hand s k i l l s of manual l a b o u r , craftsmanship or mass p r o d u c t i o n , and i n c r e a s i n g l y on a general education. The general demands of s o c i e t y

are such t h a t a broad p r e p a r a t i o n i s necessary, a p r e p a r a t i o n on which a v a r i e t y of h i g h l y

s p e c i f i c s k i l l s and knowledge may be developed at a l a t e r stage. (16)

Modern s o c i e t y also demands t h a t schools should encour- age an i n t e l l e c t u a l development t h a t w i l l a s s i s t workers

i n t h e i r own r e - e d u c a t i o n as they change or are r e q u i r e d t o change from one job to another.

The long-term needs of the i n d i v i d u a l , t h e n , are best met by a program of general education. But the prospects f o r the i n d i v i d u a l are also t h a t he i s l i k e l y to experience problems i n choosing an occupation w i s e l y ,

i n g e t t i n g a j o b and i n a d j u s t i n g to the demands of work s i t u a t i o n s . Many of the c r i t i c i s m s received by the Committee t h a t schools have acted w i t h o u t s u f f i c i e n t regard to what students are going t o do n e x t , and have not been s u f f i c i e n t l y a l e r t to the problems faced i n the t r a n s i t i o n p e r i o d , seem to be v a l i d .

In accordance w i t h the needs t h a t have been

described the Committee accepts t h a t w i t h i n the program of general education some change of emphasis i s now r e q u i r e d . Two of the elements of t h i s change are discussed i n f u l l elsewhere i n t h i s r e p o r t . F i r s t , the Committee acknowledges t h a t schools need to be more informed about the world of work and the work s i t u a t i o n s i t s students enter. Students should be provided w i t h support from the school d u r i n g t h e i r p e r i o d of j o b search. The Committee has r e f e r r e d i n d e t a i l t o t h i s support i n Chapter 2 of the Report.

Secondly, the Committee accepts t h a t g a i n i n g knowledge of f u t u r e employment o p p o r t u n i t i e s i s an important p a r t of the development of i n s i g h t s i n t o the s o c i a l and c u l t u r a l environment. This new emphasis has also been 'taken up f u l l y i n an e a r l i e r s e c t i o n . F i n a l l y , the needs o f the employing a u t h o r i t y need t o be.

recognised i n a renewal of our attempt t o produce competent persons. I t i s t h i s l a s t need which w i l l be explored i n the present d i s c u s s i o n .

The Committee accepts t h a t employers l e g i t i m a t e l y seek young workers who possess " a sound knowledge of the b a s i c s " and are f l e x i b l e and able to accept r e s p o n s i b i l i t y . This i s i n accordance w i t h the views of competence t h a t the Committee sees as a r i s i n g from a general education. But i t i s c l e a r t h a t the changing demands of modern work are l e a d i n g to a change i n

employer expectations about t h e i r r e c r u i t s . Employers are seeking young workers who not only are competent at the " b a s i c s " , not o n l y are obedient, submissive and w i l l i n g to c a r r y out mundane tasks c h e e r f u l l y but also are f l e x i b l e , able to adapt to changing circumstances and able to accept g r e a t e r r e s p o n s i b i l i t y than was expected of young workers i n the past.

The Committee would suggest two t h i n g s t o employers about these e x p e c t a t i o n s . In the f i r s t p l a c e , there would appear to be some degree of i n c o m p a t i b i l i t y

between the demands. The Committee doubts i f the young worker who i s passive and unquestioning w i l l also be prepared to e x e r c i s e i n i t i a t i v e and demonstrate adapt- a b i l i t y . I t also doubts i f s u b j e c t i n g students to more exercises i n the basics w i l l e i t h e r increase the l e v e l of competence or be able to educate students t o

f l e x i b i l i t y , a d a p t a b i l i t y and the a b i l i t y to communicate.

Ir* the second p l a c e , the Committee would suggest t h a t some expectations are u n r e a l i s t i c a l l y h i g h , e s p e c i a l l y

W lt h respect to those school leavers r e c r u i t e d a t the the p e r i o d of compulsory schooling or a t an even e a r l i e r age.

The o v e r a l l e f f e c t of t h e change of emphasis t h a t the Committee i s suggesting i s t h a t t h e r e

should be some r e d i r e c t i o n of the education program as students near the end of t h e i r time a t school.

I f i t s recommendations about career education are accepted t h e r e should be a gradual increase i n aware- ness of the world o f work as secondary education

proceeds. At the same time i n d i v i d u a l students should, e s p e c i a l l y i n Year 10, be provided w i t h u n i t s i n t h e i r course t h a t sharpen the general competencies needed i n the world of work. Thus i t would be p o s s i b l e f o r most students t o leave school w i t h an acceptable l e v e l o f competence i n computation, w r i t i n g and v e r b a l

communication.

So f a r i n t h i s s e c t i o n a t t e n t i o n has been concen- t r a t e d on the m a j o r i t y of students who enter employment d i r e c t from the secondary school. However, the

Committee has also been concerned w i t h t h e r e l a t i o n s h i p between education i n Years 9 and 10 and education i n secondary c o l l e g e s . The major need would seem t o be f o r improved communication a t l o c a l l e v e l . Close l i a i s o n between each secondary c o l l e g e and i t s feeder schools i s e s s e n t i a l , p a r t i c u l a r l y through the

development of c o n t i n u i n g c o n t a c t s between the senior s t a f f i n the r e s p e c t i v e i n s t i t u t i o n s . F u r t h e r , students who know i n Year 10 t h a t they wish t o undertake H.S.C.

study should have the o p p o r t u n i t y of u n d e r t a k i n g u n i t s enabling them to sharpen t h e i r s k i l l s i n such areas as e s s a y - w r i t i n g . The Committee b e l i e v e s t h a t c e r t i f -

i c a t e requirements are end-points t h a t w i l l be a t t a i n e d by many students before the end of Year 10. Such

students should have the o p p o r t u n i t y o f u n d e r t a k i n g u n i t s d i r e c t l y r e l a t e d to the next stage of t h e i r education or extending them i n p a r t i c u l a r s u b j e c t - f i e l d s . The Committee wishes t o encourage secondary schools t o u t i l i z e the p o s s i b i l i t i e s t h a t e x i s t f o r such arrangements.

Whether the students are e n t e r i n g the labour f o r c e or c o n t i n u i n g to secondary c o l l e g e s , the l a t e r second- ary years are when the long-term p r e p a r a t i o n f o r the i n d i v i d u a l ' s whole f u t u r e i s s e r i o u s l y undertaken.

Nevertheless the Committee f i r m l y r e j e c t s the view t h a t secondary education should be designed e i t h e r t o meet a demand from employers f o r young workers w i t h s k i l l s or competencies f o r p a r t i c u l a r occupations or to t r a i n students i n the s k i l l s t o be used a t a l a t e r stage of education. The secondary system and i n d i v i d u a l schools must be prepared to say t h a t employers or

secondary c o l l e g e s have the major r e s p o n s i b i l i t y f o r

developing the s k i l l s and a t t i t u d e s s p e c i f i c a l l y r e q u i r e d i n t h a t a c t i v i t y or i n s t i t u t i o n .

Assessment of s k i l l s i n expression and c a l c u l a t i o n The Committee i s concerned t h a t c e r t i f i c a t e awards i n the present s u b j e c t s of E n g l i s h and Mathematics do not p i n p o i n t the a b i l i t y of the

student to read, w r i t e and c a l c u l a t e , since these a c t i v i t i e s are r e l a t i v e l y minor aspects of Year 10 assessment.

This s i t u a t i o n i s p o t e n t i a l l y harmful from two p o i n t s of view. I t means t h a t employers as users of the School C e r t i f i c a t e do not r e c e i v e the i n f o r m a t i o n t h a t they t h i n k they are g e t t i n g when they o b t a i n d e t a i l s about performance i n these two s u b j e c t s , and

i t throws doubt on the standard of the School C e r t i f i c a t e when examples can be shown of students who g a i n awards at the h i g h e s t l e v e l i n E n g l i s h or Mathematics and y e t make simple e r r o r s or l a c k elementary s k i l l s . This happens o f t e n enough t o be d i s t u r b i n g , d e s p i t e a general c o r r e l a t i o n between good performance i n the broad

subjects and t h e i r u n d e r l y i n g basic s k i l l s .

There i s a general teacher r e s i s t a n c e to the assessment o f c a l c u l a t i o n and E n g l i s h expression as separate s k i l l s . T h i s a r i s e s from a f e a r t h a t i f these s k i l l s are i d e n t i f i e d as i m p o r t a n t , too much emphasis w i l l be g i v e n t o them a t the expense of other more broadening a c t i v i t i e s . I f the approach recommended by the Committee f o r a school-wide concern f o r these s k i l l s i s f o l l o w e d , t h i s need not be so. The responsib- i l i t y f o r t h i s s k i l l development i s not s o l e l y the

concern of teachers of E n g l i s h and Mathematics. Teachers i n a l l areas need to be conscious o f , and accept, t h i s r e s p o n s i b i l i t y .

The Committee would not want t o see a new s u b j e c t of E n g l i s h Expression i n t r o d u c e d t o the school program.

I t i s not q u i t e so c e r t a i n about C a l c u l a t i o n . E i t h e r way, i t i s i n t e r e s t e d i n the p o s s i b i l i t y of having the r e s u l t s of an a b i l i t y - t y p e t e s t i n these two areas recorded on c e r t i f i c a t e s as a means of making c e r t i f i c - ates more p e r t i n e n t t o the purposes f o r which they are used. At the same t i m e , the r e s u l t s of such t e s t i n g would i n d i c a t e t o a school the e f f e c t i v e n e s s of i t s

program f o r the development of language and c a l c u l a t i o n s k i l l s across the c u r r i c u l u m .

The Committee i s not prepared t o make a f i r m recommendation on t h i s matter a t present. I t simply r a i s e s the problem i n the hope t h a t d i s c u s s i o n i n the

schools might c l a r i f y the issues i n v o l v e d and e v e n t u a l l y increase the value of whatever c e r t i f i c a t e s are given.

Misunderstandings between parents and teachers about teaching and l e a r n i n g

Teaching and l e a r n i n g methods are not s t a t i c and there i s a v i t a l need t o acquaint parents w i t h new developments i n education. The need f o r t h i s was evident i n the submissions r e c e i v e d by the Committee which a l l e g e d a lack of numeracy and l i t e r a c y among

students. The s o l u t i o n s o f f e r e d i n these l a y sub- missions were remarkably s i m i l a r - a r e t u r n t o the

teaching o f f o r m a l grammar, r o t e - l e a r n i n g of t a b l e s , r e g u l a r s p e l l i n g t e s t s , p u n c t i l i o u s a t t e n t i o n t o the c o r r e c t i o n of e r r o r s and an improvement i n the standard of handwriting.'

Submissions from p r o f e s s i o n a l teachers were at v a r i a n c e w i t h these ideas. They aimed at the same

goals, but they "favoured a l e s s d i r e c t and more humane approach based on a view of the value of m o t i v a t i o n and gradual development. For example, they took the view t h a t the anguish of l e a r n i n g grammar as a weekly r o u t i n e s t i f l e d and e v e n t u a l l y k i l l e d confidence t o go on

l e a r n i n g . At .the same time they acknowledged the

value of f o r m a l teaching f o r a p p r o p r i a t e c o n t e n t items.

Teachers seemed to consider i t was more i m p o r t a n t f o r a student t o be able " t o t h i n k , i n t u i t i v e l y , i m a g i n a t i v e l y , c r i t i c a l l y , s o c i a l l y , n a t u r a l l y , l o g i c a l l y , i n t e r n a t i o n - a l l y , h i s t o r i c a l l y , m u s i c a l l y , a r t i s t i c a l l y , s p e c i f i c a l l y and so on" (17) than t o be r e j e c t e d because he f a i l e d a grammar t e s t . The view i s t h a t the development of l a n - guage power develops n a t u r a l l y from the use of language

i n a v a r i e t y of s i t u a t i o n s .

There i s confusion i n the minds o f the p u b l i c about the r e l a t i v e m e r i t s of the v a r i o u s t e a c h i n g methods.

The k i n d of argument from the p r o f e s s i o n a l s quoted above does l i t t l e to reduce i t . I t i s v i t a l l y necessary f o r p r o f e s s i o n a l s t o p r o v i d e students and parents w i t h

" d e m y s t i f l y i n g " i n f o r m a t i o n . For example, simply t o say t h a t open education i s the a b i l i t y to use a v a r i e t y of methods, as the s i t u a t i o n demands, reduces the k i n d of p o l a r i z a t i o n which seems to surround the term.

Parental p a r t i c i p a t i o n i n the school and school involvement i n the community i s one obvious means of reducing misunderstanding. Another i s the use of good q u a l i t y p u b l i c a t i o n s , well-managed p u b l i c p r e s e n t a t i o n s , and the c a r e f u l b r i e f i n g of teachers t a k i n g p a r t i n

"parent-teacher" evenings so t h a t they are able to be i n f o r m a t i v e and h e l p f u l to parents.

There i s a p a r t i c u l a r problem i n d e a l i n g w i t h the non-English-speaking parents of migrant c h i l d r e n . The Committee i s conscious of the f a c t t h a t the f a i l u r e o f these parents i n p a r t i c u l a r t o understand what the school i s about i s making the c h i l d r e n the v i c t i m s of

a s p e c i a l disadvantage which i s o f t e n overlooked because the c h i l d r e n themselves do not appear t o have language d i f f i c u l t i e s .

Choice and d i v e r s i t y i n the program

The Committee has i d e n t i f i e d a number of areas of a c t i v i t y which should be i n c l u d e d i n t h e program of a l l students f o r the f o u r years o f secondary s c h o o l i n g . I t has a l s o adopted as p r i n c i p l e s t h a t l i f e - d e t e r m i n i n g choices should be d e f e r r e d f o r as

long as p o s s i b l e , t h a t schools should develop d i v e r s i t y w i t h i n a broad general framework, t h a t students should have a degree of choice about t h e programs t h a t they f o l l o w , and t h a t rewards f o r achievement should n o t be d e f e r r e d f o r too l o n g .

The p r i n c i p l e of d e f e r r i n g l i f e - d e t e r m i n i n g choices a p p l i e s p a r t i c u l a r l y t o the e a r l y years o f

secondary s c h o o l i n g . I n accordance w i t h t h e ideas already expressed about general e d u c a t i o n , the Committee favours a common course f o r t h e f i r s t two years d u r i n g which p e r i o d t h e r e are no o r g a n i z a t i o n a l requirements f o r s p e c i a l i z a t i o n . This should n o t prevent some students from going as f a r as they are a b l e , b u t they should do so w i t h i n a common framework which would mean t h a t no students are shut out.

In the l a t e r years several courses o f a c t i o n are a v a i l a b l e f o r c o v e r i n g the areas o f a c t i v i t y i d e n t i f i e d by the Committee. For some students t h i s would be done by c o n t i n u i n g t h e attempt t o r e a l i z e the f u l l p o t e n t i a l of a l i m i t e d range o f s u b j e c t s . For others a g a i n ,

a l t e r n a t i v e courses such as t h a t f o r low-achieving

students mentioned e a r l i e r i n t h i s Report might be t h e v e h i c l e f o r a s u b s t a n t i a l p a r t o f the general education program. (18)

The Committee recommends the development o f u n i t courses o f t h e semester type as a means of l e t t i n g

students see r e s u l t s i n a s h o r t time. The development of such u n i t s would also p r o v i d e one means o f g i v i n g choice t o students. A d d i t i o n a l enrichment u n i t s w i t h i n t h e general framework should be developed t o c a t e r f o r the needs o f students who reach p r o f i c i e n c y q u i c k l y i n the basic u n i t s . F u r t h e r u n i t s again i n

the l a t e r years t o sharpen study s k i l l s and p r e - v o c a t i o n a l competencies should be a v a i l a b l e from the range o f s k i l l u n i t s mentioned above, or i n d i v i d u a l preferences, which by the Committee's d e f i n i t i o n f a l l o u t s i d e the framework of general education.

I n developing a program o f f e r i n g t h e kinds o f

choices and v a r i e t y i n d i c a t e d above, the r e s p o n s i b i l i t y

of those i n v o l v e d i n student guidance should be t o l o o k , not to t h e subjects chosen by groups o f s t u d e n t s , b u t t o

the coverage o f t h e areas of general e d u c a t i o n , and the r i g o u r of t h e program, f o l l o w e d by each student.

In other words, i t i s not the number o f s u b j e c t s , but the range o f a c t i v i t i e s t h a t they encompass, t h a t should be of concern t o those a d v i s i n g about i n d i v i d u a l students' programs.

3.4 ISSUES RELATED TO PARTICULAR AREAS IN THE

In document Secondary Education in Tasmania (Page 95-103)