Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

'Panel-Beaters Don't Have to Learn Shakespeare'

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

'Panel-Beaters Don't Have to Learn Shakespeare'

Article excerpt

Leading academic dismisses need for 'core' shared knowledge

One of the world's most influential education academics has dismissed the idea that all pupils should learn essential "core" knowledge, arguing that panel-beaters and baristas do not need to know about Shakespeare or chemistry.

Professor John Hattie, pictured right, wants more emphasis on how children learn. "We have got to get away from this absolute passion that kids need to read and write, and start worrying how to actually go about learning," the University of Melbourne academic told an event in London last week.

"There is no such thing as a common curriculum, even in this country, let alone across countries," he continued. "I give up. I don't care. I care about what's challenging. What is going to help the kid answer that question?"

A growing "core knowledge" movement in the US and UK argues that all pupils, particularly the disadvantaged, need essential facts across all the main subjects to fully participate in society.

But Professor Hattie, whose 2008 milestone "meta-analysis" of 80,000 education studies, Visible Learning, transformed the debate on what works in teaching, said: "I want kids who are going to be brilliant panel-beaters or baristas to be very good at learning. They don't have to learn Shakespeare, they don't have to learn chemistry."

Shaking off the polemicists

His view that teachers should leave education research to academics, reported online by TES last week, angered many in the profession (see bit.ly/HattieResearch).

In Professor Hattie's outspoken talk, organised by Pearson, he also suggested that teacher autonomy should be reduced. He later cautioned against using Visible Learning to argue for a particular method of teaching.

Asked his views on Daisy Christodoulou and Robert Peal, British authors who cite his research in polemics against "so-called progressive" education, Professor Hattie said: "This obsession about how we teach is quite frankly a mistaken obsession.

"If these people are writing that you should teach in this particular way, they have missed the message of the whole book, which is about the impact of that teaching. …

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