The Scottish Curriculum for Excellence

Marc Tucker notes:

The Scots decided that there was far too much testing and the curriculum was overly prescriptive, and insufficiently interdisciplinary.  The Scots believe that exams measure only a small part of what is most important in an education, and concluded that over-reliance on them had narrowed the curriculum unacceptably.  They wanted a curriculum that was very demanding but very flexible, full of pathways that would enable students from many different backgrounds to excel.

The result was the Curriculum for Excellence, first introduced in 2004, and not yet fully implemented.  Descriptions of the Curriculum emphasize the importance of the Four Capacities: Successful Learners, Confident Individuals, Responsible Citizens and Effective Contributors.  And they cite the Seven Principles of Curriculum Design: Challenge and Enjoyment, Breadth, Progression, Depth, Personalization and Choice, Coherence and Relevance.  Visitors to Scottish schools implementing the new curriculum are struck by the high student engagement they see, partly a function of the highly applied project- and problem-oriented work they see going on in and out of classrooms.

There is considerable emphasis on assessment, but the angle of vision on assessment is very different from that found in England.  Rather than tightening the screws on external assessment, as in England, the Scots focus on getting students to assess themselves against the standards, internalizing the standards.  They talk about helping students work in groups to develop peer assessment so that the groups and individuals in the group can pinpoint their weaknesses and get better.  Assessment is seen as being most useful to a student when it is keyed to their own individual learning plan. Summative assessments are referred to as profiles, a statement of achievements in a variety of formats that can be assembled as an e-Portfolio.  The mandatory exams for 16 year olds were abolished.

Realizing that goals like these could not be achieved by ratcheting up the rules and tightening the screws on schools and teachers, the Scots went in the opposite direction, trying to ensure faithful implementation of their policies by enlisting teachers in large numbers in the further development of the curriculum.  Rather than laying out a whole detailed plan as quickly as possible and then putting out a very aggressive implementation schedule, the Scots decided that they would implement their new policies gradually, over a period of many years, getting teachers involved in filling in the details of the plan themselves, in piloting the new ideas and then in modifying the plan iteratively in response to what teachers discovered as the implementation went forward.  Teachers, in other words, were to be not the recipients but the drivers of implementation.

via http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2013/07/22/england-vs-scotland-competing-school-reform-visions

3 Responses to “The Scottish Curriculum for Excellence”

  1. I am so excited to see this kind of vision being implemented at scale. Finally policy makers getting something right.

  2. This part is misleading “The mandatory exams for 16 year olds were abolished.”

    I teach in Scotland. The exams have not been abolished for all pupils, the vast majority will still sit mandatory exams only pupils who are the least able or with specific learning difficulties may not sit exams.

  3. I encouraged Iowa to consider the Scottish model when I worked at the Institute for Tomorrow’s Workforce from 2008-2009. They made lots of sense in the school governance area as well as curriculum and evaluation.The Scots emphasized local control, but the school districts were large enough to be able to really support the schools.

Leave a Reply

Switch to our mobile site