We need a 21st-cen­tury cur­ricu­lum

Tra­di­tional teach­ing will not meet the chal­lenges faced by to­day’s pupils

The Jewish Chronicle - - EDUCATION - BY LAU­RIE ROSEN­BERG Lau­rie Rosen­berg teaches Jewish ed­u­ca­tion at JCoSS in Lon­don

IN TWO years, no Bri­tish stu­dent in any school will have been born in the 20th cen­tury.

Ev­ery sin­gle one of them will be a mil­len­nial, born in the 21st cen­tury and fac­ing a very dif­fer­ent fu­ture from that con­fronting their pre­de­ces­sors.

But we still force-feed our kids with a cur­ricu­lum diet forged in the In­dus­trial Rev­o­lu­tion, a cur­ricu­lum com­prised of si­los of knowl­edge, tested in the same way that our 19th-cen­tury for­bears would recog­nise and prob­a­bly fare bet­ter at.

This is a cur­ricu­lum that in­cludes many out­dated, irrelevant and con­tentheavy sub­jects, and about which lit­tle thought is given to how chil­dren learn so that they can be pro­vided with real tools to ex­pand the mind.

Jews have, for mil­len­nia, ap­plied deep rea­son­ing skills to in­ter­ro­gate prob­lems and sit­u­a­tions. This has given us our famed frac­tious­ness but also a rest­less, cu­ri­ous and cre­ative in­tel­lect. We thrive on de­bate, dis­cus­sion and ar­gu­ment, us­ing text and tra­di­tion to hy­poth­e­sise, test, adopt and adapt new tech­nolo­gies with­out los­ing our unique iden­tity.

In­deed, it is our love of ed­u­ca­tion that has guar­an­teed our sur­vival against a back­ground of ha­tred fu­elled through the ever-present virus of an­ti­semitism.

So how can our schools, de­pen­dent on dis­crete sub­jects and rel­a­tively crude test­ing, pro­vide the millennials with the tools to be fu­ture lead­ers, thinkers and morally ac­count­able cit­i­zens, un­less they have the ca­pac­ity for free think­ing, nour­ished through in­tel­lec­tual cu­rios­ity and bound­less imag­i­na­tion?

Cur­rently, the sys­tem as­phyx­i­ates cre­ativ­ity and is con­tent to pit school against school, child against child, cre­at­ing an en­vi­ron­ment where all covet the suc­cess of the other, as op­posed to cel­e­brat­ing the love of learn­ing, and where teach­ers spend more time on pro­cess­ing the ev­i­dence of learn­ing, rather than ed­u­cat­ing our young­sters.

So, we need a real de­bate on what is an ed­u­cated stu­dent of the 21st cen­tury; what dis­po­si­tions, at­ti­tudes, skills, at­tributes and re­sources do our millennials need to be able to be­come true cit­i­zens of to­mor­row.

And it is all in the Shema. That won­der­ful daily af­fir­ma­tion of our be­lief in the Almighty speaks of a love of God with our heart, soul and our strengths — in ed­u­ca­tional terms the af­fec­tive, cog­ni­tive and skill-based do­mains of learn­ing.

The af­fec­tive do­main in­cludes key el­e­ments of en­joy­ment, em­pa­thy, love of learn­ing, imag­i­na­tion, cre­ativ­ity and cu­rios­ity, the EQ (Emo­tional Quo­tient) in­tel­li­gence and SQ (Spir­i­tual Quo­tient) in­tel­li­gence, the aware­ness of awe and won­der, and the un­der­stand­ing of the role of God in our daily life.

The cog­ni­tive do­main in­cludes how well a child is learn­ing, pro­cess­ing and ap­ply­ing knowl­edge and could be mea­sured through con­ven­tional tests that broadly re­sem­ble the fa­mil­iar IQ (In­tel­li­gence Quo­tient) tests.

The skills do­main in­cludes abil­i­ties and tal­ents re­quired to en­able and record learn­ing, us­ing new tech­nolo­gies and keep­ing both the mind and the body fit.

If these three core el­e­ments were ap­plied to the ed­u­ca­tion of the child, then it would be pos­si­ble to pro­vide a more rounded eval­u­a­tion of child’s de­vel­op­ment and learn­ing, as­sisted through digital cap­tur­ing and lead­ing to a nar­ra­tive of a child’s progress through­out and be­yond school; and yes, even within sub­jects.

Cur­rently, the un­cer­tain­ties pre­sented in a post-truth world are fright­en­ing and po­lar­is­ing. There is more tan­gi­ble ha­tred of “the other” and schools are far too busy try­ing to as­sess stu­dents as op­posed to ed­u­cat­ing them.

Twenty-first-cen­tury schools need to move away from a Vic­to­rian sys­tem, char­ac­terised by strict age seg­re­ga­tion, to be­come ex­cit­ing and dy­namic com­mu­nity cen­tres of life­long learn­ing and fam­ily ed­u­ca­tion, free from age and sub­ject bound­aries and where the real joy of learn­ing can ex­press it­self.

The Shema con­tains an ex­plicit mitz­vah to teach our chil­dren. Ed­u­ca­tion can­not sim­ply be ab­ro­gated to a school, or the shul or even the home. It is a col­lec­tive en­deav­our and a whole com­mu­nity re­spon­si­bil­ity, we owe this to our millennials.

A 1906 class­room — the way some sub­jects are still taught is equally old-fash­ioned

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