A CURRICULUM FOR EXCELLENCE:
A QUESTION OF VALUES
A Curriculum for Excellence outlines a curriculum for young people in Scotland from age 3 to 18. In the report, endorsed wholly by Scottish ministers, much is made of the underpinning values of the proposed curriculum. However, the absence of any consultation period has meant that such values and the report itself have not been subject to systematic debate by parliament, public, or the educational community values outlined in A Curriculum for Excellence. It suggests that the absence of an overarching rationale in the Report has left the stated curriculum values, although worthy, lacking coherence and force. It further questions the concept of ‘national values’, raised by the Report as central to curriculum planning, as having meaning within a multicultural and multiethnic society, and queries the view that such values should be the subject of curricular prescription.
BACKGROUND AND CONTEXT
The Curriculum Review Group was set up by Scottish Ministers in November 2003. Its task was to identify the purposes of education 3 to 18 and the principles for the design of the curriculum. The Group was asked to take account of views expressed during the National Debate, account of current research and of international comparisons. As well as educational factors, the Group considered global factors coming decades, including changing patterns of work, increased knowledge of how children learn and the potential of new technologies to enrich learning. In addition, the Group was asked to take a broad view of children’s development, within the wider framework of Integrated Children’s Services, bearing in mind the wide range of adults directly involved in the education of children and young people, in early years centres, schools, colleges and out of school learning. (Scottish Executive, 2004a: 6–7)
The Curriculum Review Group reported in November 2004 with the document A Curriculum for Excellence. The foreword, signed by both the Education Minister and his Deputy, states that the document ‘establishes clear values, purposes and principles for education from 3 to 18 in Scotland’ (Scottish Executive, 2004a: 3). However, the Review Group’s report, endorsed in its entirety by the Executive (Scottish Executive, 2004b), was never subjected either to parliamentary scrutiny nor to public consultation and, thus, its underpinning curriculum values, its view of the purposes and principles for education, have also remained beyond exploration. Given the vaunted importance of values in shaping the new curricular structure, it is timely to examine them in some detail.
any particular theoretical position on the conceptual nature of the curriculum, it does still give an indication of its view of what a curriculum is: our young people. It is designed to convey knowledge which is considered to be important and to promote the development of values, understanding 25
and capabilities. It is concerned both with what is to be learned and how it individuals, reach high levels of achievement, and make valuable contributions to society.
The curriculum affects us all. (Scottish Executive, 2004a: 9) it is heavily contextualised, as indicated, at the simplest level, by the use of the personal pronoun. Nevertheless, it is the clearest statement within the document of the Review Group’s conceptualisation of curriculum.
Stenhouse (1975:4) provides what is seen as a very comprehensive, and succinct, features of an educational proposal in such a form that it is open to critical scrutiny and capable of effective translation into practice.’ Kelly (1989: 1) offers the following understanding of the term: ‘the overall rationale for the educational programme of an institution…’ The important connection to notice between these two in the current context is the alignment of ‘principles’ in Stenhouse with ‘rationale’ in Kelly. The reasoning which underpins the educational proposal or...
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