The Primary Curriculum: Learning from International Perspectives

The Primary Curriculum: Learning from International Perspectives

The Primary Curriculum: Learning from International Perspectives

The Primary Curriculum: Learning from International Perspectives

Synopsis

This book is concerned with the relationships and tensions in education between children's needs and societies' demands. It presents a range of international perspectives and offers a framework for thinking about elementary curricula.

Excerpt

This chapter aims to identify the many and diverse strands which have shaped primary education in the United Kingdom, in a way which encourages readers familiar with the education systems of other countries to see similarities and comparisons. It can be argued that the British system is a poor candidate for the central role in this discussion. Whilst all national education systems have distinctive features which are particularly related to their historical and cultural origins, the British experience contrasts more sharply with international patterns than most. Significant trends and influences which can be identified in many other nations are notable by their absence or neglect in the UK. Whereas other countries, sometimes during periods of great stress, have confronted the big issues—like what education is for and how much national effort should be invested in it—the UK has favoured an evolutionary, piecemeal approach which has been characteristic of its endeavours in other fields too.

There are advantages to such an approach. Change can be accomplished relatively smoothly, building on proven experience of good practice rather than by imposition. For much of the twentieth century, educational decision-making has been a shared responsibility between central and local authorities, enabling the latter to be genuinely responsive to local needs and often creative in their solutions. For example, the training of teachers, special needs provision and school meals and medicals were all local initiatives which were subsequently absorbed into national legislation. Teachers themselves, who have enjoyed considerable professional autonomy compared with those in many other countries, have often played a significant role in developing policy based on practice. The British ‘system’

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