At the end of last year a report by the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference (HMC) highlighted that 94% of education leaders, parents, students and staff believe GCSEs are outdated and called for urgent reform to the curriculum.There have also been calls from education thinktank EDSK to replace A-levels with a broader, three-year baccalaureate because the curriculum is considered too narrow. Although we are seeing the introduction of new subjects such as psychology and computer science, the core UK curriculum remains largely unchanged since they were developed decades ago.

So when it comes to subjects on our curriculums, what needs to change, and why?

While the number of students passing exams with excellent grades continues to rise, with 45% of A-level students awarded top grades last year, employers feel that many school and education leavers are lacking essential skills when they come to joining the world of work. Andrew Langdale set up The Management Academy after he found that in looking for great managers and employees, there was a limited correlation between academic grades and performance at work. Speaking to other business leaders he discovered there was a common consensus that the preoccupation with academic excellence meant that too many young people were leaving education with no real grasp of skills that would help them in the workplace and their careers.

What businesses want from their staff are creative problem solvers. With such a strong focus on passing exams, students are being taught to get it ‘right’, which means that they often leave with a lack of confidence when it comes to asking important questions. A fear of ‘getting it wrong’ in the workplace can stand in their way when it comes to seeking out creative new solutions.

The world’s most successful entrepreneurs have one key thing in common – the ability to identify a problem none of us saw coming. When Elon Musk first dreamt up the idea for PayPal, none could understand the need for online payments. Steve Jobs popularised the computer mouse while most people were still happy typing commands from their keyboard. The future of the workplace is changing at such a rapid rate that we can’t predict the jobs that today’s students will enter into, but we can ensure that they are equipped with the skills they need to be successful. Confidence, curiosity, effective questioning and creative problem solving are key.

Broadening the curriculum and introducing new subjects to teach fundamental skills not only helps with student engagement, but new subjects spark a deeper interest and curiosity, which is fundamental to learning. Teaching skills in a way that students enjoy means they are more likely to remember important lessons later in life.

Over recent years we have seen a real increase in demand for non-traditional subjects, such as cryptocurrencies, robotics, coding and vlogging. By teaching economics through crypto, science through minecraft, maths through robotics, and creative writing through video game development, traditional education begins to encompass future skills in an exciting way.

Take cryptocurrency as an example. This course brings together a host of skills, from interpreting graphs to critical thinking, analysing newspaper headlines on crypto, and problem-solving by coming up with innovative ways to solve problems within this new market. Video game development as another example is not just important for technical skills such as programming and animation, but also encompasses creative writing, history and architecture while also working on core skills such as research.

Beyond introducing new subjects, innovating traditional subjects is key. Questioning the purpose of core subjects and curriculum and looking at how we can integrate abstract skills such as independent thinking, creative problem solving and effective questioning into chemistry, maths and English is also essential.

We also need to challenge traditional measure of success. Exams should not be seen as the only measure of what students have learnt. We should be analysing how people approach a problem, rather than just grading their answers.

We need to take a more holistic approach to learning and education, ensuring that all subjects, from the emerging to the traditional, develops the skills of effective questioning, decision making and problem solving to set young people up for a future of success.


This article was written by Carl Morris, Head of Tutoring, Carfax Education and Principal, Carfax College, Oxford

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