The Royal Society of Edinburgh’s Education Committee recently prepared a response to the OECD review of Curriculum for Excellence (CfE), commissioned by Scottish Government. This builds on the Committee’s representation in stakeholder sessions run by OECD this past autumn. The Committee welcomed the extension of the review’s remit to include CfE in its entirety and in this response identifies several key issues that have arisen during CfE’s implementation in Scotland. These have ranged from a lack of a clear curricular philosophy to reduced subject choice in the senior phase to a shortage of data on educational performance. On this basis, the response presents a set of recommendations for how CfE implementation can be improved:
- CfE’s innate strengths such as interdisciplinary learning (IDL) and the scope to support skills development should be further promoted. However, there is a pivotal need to define the role of knowledge under CfE and how it relates to both skills development and the overall learning experience. OECD is very well placed to advise on this given its substantive work in this area.
- There is a need to ensure smooth progression and continuity across the whole of schooling and into tertiary education. At present, the learner journey is particularly stalled at the transition from the broad general education to the senior phase.
- Clear but concise national guidance on overall curriculum design should be developed, informed by the significant education and pedagogical expertise found within Scotland’s universities.
- There remain significant gaps in the available evidence base across a range of performance measures. Addressing this should be a priority and would indeed serve as the starting point for a host of targeted improvement initiatives.
- Some of the changes brought on by COVID-19 have proven to be positive and could be extended over the long-term. At the same time, the pandemic has dealt a blow to teaching and learning that will need to be satisfactorily remedied; otherwise, pupils run the risk of carrying the disadvantages of this year with them throughout their educational and career journeys.