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Douglas Carswell's Blog

28 FEB 2013

We do not need a National Curriculum

What should be in the National Curriculum?

Proper history, say the historians.  Financial literacy, demand others. More science, insist the scientists.

Once you have a national curriculum, there will inevitably be a debate about what it should include.

I've nothing against the three Rs or foreign languages or all the myriad of things that other people will insist that other people's kids must learn. But perhaps there is a better way.

One of the wonderful things about digital technology is that it allows public services that were once provided on a one-size-fits-all basis to be personalised. Instead of a national curriculum, every child could have his or her own personalised curriculum.

Far fetched?  The idea that we would each be able to select our own software would have seemed off-the-wall a decade or so ago.  Just as your ipad contains all kinds of apps that you downloaded to suit your needs, why not allow mums and dads and teachers to put together a learning programme that suits each individual child?

"It would produce chaos", you say. No more than letting folk buy their own groceries produces anarchy in the supermarkets. If your alternative is food rationing, the scene at the checkout will seem a little chaotic.  Folk manage.

The main argument against self-selection is that people don't know what a good curriculum looks like. We need, apparently, the wisdom of a remote elite in Whitehall to decide what children should learn.

I disagree. A good curriculum requires collective wisdom to design. Is that knowledge best brought together by a team of experts in one place i.e. the minister's desk in London? Or is collective expertise best assembled by tens of thousands of teachers exercising their professional judgement, and parents pursuing the best interests of their child?

We Conservatives keep making the mistake of believing that we can achieve a "proper" curriculum by using the fiat of central government to shape it.  We create the architecture of Big Government, and are then surprised to find we don't like the results.  Tories once made the mistake of believing we could use the power of central government to run British Leyland.

When will we learn to let go?

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