Created on: March 18, 2013 Last Updated: March 19, 2013
One of the biggest challenges facing schools today is in deciding how best to handle a dangerously overcrowded curriculum. While the hours in a school day have not changed for some time, what students are being asked to learn certainly has. Educators are now often forced to address the demands of a broad range of content and skills, while ensuring that students still have a reasonable opportunity to develop deep understanding.
Changes to curriculum are usually only put in place for good reasons. Although there are obvious problems associated with overloading the syllabus, there are definite benefits too. It is important to recognize, however, that there are two distinct ways in which the crowding has occurred. The first of these is the increase in subjects now being taught, and the second is the escalation in content and associated skills within each course. Both of these elements have potential advantages to students, but both also risk diluting the value of any learning experience.
Advantages of a crowded curriculum
Gone are the days when students were all expected to learn the same things in the same way. It is now clear that students are not all cut from the same cloth, and that they have a great variety of learning needs, irrespective of ability. While schools will always need to maintain standards for the so-called ‘3 R’s’ – reading, writing, and ‘rithmatic – they can now offer more classes that suit predominantly kinaesthetic, audio, or visual learners. It is difficult to make a case that schools should not be offering courses in drama, art, or music, as there will be students that depend on subjects like these to develop their true potential. Similarly, many students will find trade-based classes such as woodwork or auto-shop to be of far greater long-term benefit than book learning, and many would argue that these courses deserve a place on the curriculum too.
A crowded curriculum also addresses the realities of a complex world. The simple truth is that young people today have more things to think about than their parents did at the same age. They have more career choices, and yet they also stand a greater chance of being unemployed. They have many opportunities for tertiary education, but they need to have the chance to experience a wide range of learning at high school level so that they can make informed choices.
Young people today also have more civic and personal responsibilities to consider. Theirs is a global
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