In his 2005 Stanford Commencement speech, Steve Jobs narrates the time he dropped out of college – and then started dropping back in – to the things that really interested him. One of the first courses he took was Calligraphy, a course that, ten years later, provided the basis for Apple’s phenomenal graphics. How could he have known, he asks in his 2005 Stanford Commencement Speech, that this knowledge would one day be so valuable?
What if the point of education is to provide students with the dots that they may later connect and join up – just like the dot-to-dot pictures that we enjoyed so much as kids? Is Gove’s new curriculum allowing this to happen? Can a diet of EBacc subjects, prescriptive content and rigorous assessment driven by an education department focused on market forces, school monitoring and standardisation of provision (rather than what’s good for our kids) give today’s students the opportunity to learn in the wider sense, to learn the stuff that they don’t even know they will one day need and use?
Today the head of the CBI called for ‘GCSEs to be scrapped’ because it is narrow and out-of-date. He also warns of a false choice between academic and vocational lessons. Internationally we are the ‘oddballs’ in Europe, putting our students through major exams at 16. He calls for curriculum reform which values practical skills, soft skills such as ‘character and resilience’ and academic knowledge equally.
How extensively have we researched the value of an education driven by intellectual curiosity, philosophical challenge and practical activity rather than performance measures? An education that allows students to acquire knowledge and experience which isn’t immediately useful but can develop creative and innovative thinking, confidence and resilience alongside formal knowledge – an appropriate preparation for an employment environment which is driven by change, chance and complexity. In essence, a joining of the dots?
Steve Jobs 2005 Stanford Commencement Speech
BBC News: CBI Head calls for GCSEs to be scrapped.