Last month, the Ministry of Education put out their drafts for the Science, English, Socials and mathematics k-9 curriculum document. This document starts with the core competencies of thinking, communication and personal/social aspects. The core competencies are sets of personal, social, emotional and intellectual proficiencies that the developers of the curriculum believe are foundational for a student to become a life long learner in the 21st Century.
The concept that thinking, communication and personal/social competencies are somehow new aspects of education and were irrelevant in the 20th century seems very myopic. However, by including them within the document, teachers are given more permission to move beyond the fact-based curriculum of rote memorisation and towards a deeper understanding of the big ideas within each curricular area. There is, however, an inherent scariness about changing the curriculum in such a massive way, especially when resources have not been included, yet.
From the document itself:
- Thinking—the knowledge, skills, and processes we associate with intellectual development. It is through their competency as thinkers that students take subject-specific content and transform it into new understanding. Thinking competence includes specific thinking skills as well as habits of mind, and metacognitive awareness. Together, these components of thinking competency represent the abilities students need in order to undertake deep and lifelong learning.
This is a well-written description of the components of the thinking competency, but leave a little direction for teachers: what habits of mind? transform in what way? Teachers with little experience in transformational knowledge and Bloom’s taxonomy might find this a little daunting. Collaboration and support is needed, along with resources and money, to provide an appropriate platform for the implementation of this concept. It goes beyond what many are doing in the classroom and if teachers are not supported, given permission to try (and fail) without consequences to their positions, the whole curriculum fails.
- Communication—Communication competency encompasses the set of abilities that students use to impart and exchange information, experiences, and ideas, to explore the world around them, and to understand and effectively engage in the use of digital media. Communication competency provides a bridge between students’ learning, their personal and social identity and relationships, and the world in which they interact.
What a great way to include digital literacies within the document, but, again, they need support and collaboration time to fully implement this competency (think “and the world in which they interact” and realise that some teachers do not interact within that world).
- Personal and Social—Personal and social competency is the set of abilities that relate to students’ identity in the world, both as individuals and as members of their community and society. Personal and social competency encompasses the abilities students need to thrive as individuals, to understand and care about themselves and others, and to find and achieve their purposes in the world. Personal and social competency is a responsibility the school system shares with families and communities.
This competency brings about the whole concept of social awareness, compassion and empathy into the curriculum. Many educators have questioned why areas such as gender equality, sexual identity and other, social aspects of our communities are not specifically mentioned. However, I see this as trying to be overly inclusive, which may or may not be a good thing.
Those are my initial thoughts around the Core Competencies, but the real question is how will teachers in the classroom see them and how will they develop cross-curricular opportunities for students within these competencies. Even looking at the developmental continuum of these competencies will require a greater understanding of how they interact with the curriculum at all levels.