A baccalaureate curriculum
The Times Education Commission produced its final report in June 2022, making forty-five recommendations for reforming the English education system. The recommendations ranged from the banal – ‘9. Every primary school should have a library’ – to the interesting but undeveloped – ‘16. A British Baccalaureate at 18 [would be] an equally rigorous but broader qualification than A levels with academic and vocational options under the same umbrella’.
What is missing from this report and its recommendations are:
- a coherent theory of learning
- an in-depth understanding of educative processes (as opposed to training processes)
- a theory of curriculum that is based on a real understanding of how we learn (children and adults)
- and a sense of coherence and consistency – for instance, recommendation 16 refers to the need for a British Baccalaureate, which has some holistic elements, but it conflicts with recommendation 17, which suggests that ‘at 16 pupils should take a slimmed-down set of exams in five core subjects’, which would appear to contradict the fundamental Baccalaureate principles of holism, breadth, Bildung, coherence, solidarity, comprehensiveness and liberality (as in a liberal education).
‘What is missing from this report and its recommendations are a coherent theory of learning, an in-depth understanding of educative processes, a theory of curriculum that is based on a real understanding of how we learn, and a sense of coherence and consistency.’
The following are some suggestions from which a baccalaureate curriculum could and should be derived. There are 12 areas of life: these are epistemics (knowing), modalities (communicating), temporalities (genealogising), spatialities (positioning), physicalist sciences (cognizing), hermeneutics (understanding), technologies (enhancing), meditations (philosophising), ethics (being), corporalities (embodying), valorisations (valuing) and creativities (being creative). The easy part of making or constructing a curriculum is to describe or give a credible account of knowledge production and curriculum formation with regards to the concept and practice of learning, for this involves cognitions and understandings. The difficult part is making a judgement about what those forms of knowledge might be and what they cannot be, for this involves valorisations and evaluations.
This can be expressed in the form of a question: What are those dispositions (for example being intelligent, being courageous, being moderate in judgement, being liberal, being magnificent, being generous, being ambitious, being patient, being friendly, being truthful, being humorous, being modest and being judicial (Aristotle, 2018)), cognitions (for example having and being able to use stores of propositional knowledge developed by other people in the important areas of life, such as astronomy, biochemistry, biophysics, biology, chemistry, genetics, geology, zoology, history, geography, sociology, psychology, and so on), processes and procedures (for example making a table out of wood, making an inferential judgement, word-processing, and much more) and embodiments (for example sexuality or sexual preference, physicality and motility) that we think are appropriate for inclusion in a curriculum?
This is not a directory of pedagogic knowledge, because the object to be learned has logical and other types of inferential connections and relations with the way it can be learned and thus its pedagogy is derived from the constitution of the learning object, its learning modus operandi, and the characteristics of the learning environment. It also involves a series of rational choices and consequently the giving of reasons for those choices. In short, this Bildungstheorien (a theory of learning, a Bildung – a German word expressing relations of maturation, progression, narration, possibility, projection, praxis, edification, justification and teleology (Gadamer, 2004)) is future-oriented, semantically-conceived, fundamentally values- and virtues-based, ethically and compassionately driven (at curriculum, pedagogic and learning levels), and life-long; and it fulfils Martha Nussbaum’s (1997) requirement for a philosophy of equal esteem for all human beings – the equality principle.
This blog, I hope, is not just an opinion piece but also a reasoned argument about the curriculum, and for the introduction of a baccalaureate into the English education system. A more detailed account of this argument is available in my book, On Learning: A General Theory of Objects and Object-relations, which can be accessed in electronic form at UCL Press.
Aristotle. (2018). The complete Aristotle, Part 6: The Nicomachean ethics (W. D. Ross, Trans.). Shandon Press. Kindle Edition.
Gadamer, H.-G. (2004). Truth and method (J. Weinsheimer, & D. G. Marshall, Trans.; 2nd rev ed.). Continuum (Original work published in Germany in 1960).
Nussbaum, M. (1997). Cultivating humanity: A classical defence of reform in liberal education. Harvard University Press.
Times Education Commission. (2022). Final report. https://www.thetimes.co.uk/society/education/education-commission