Curriculum for Excellence is an education program of the Scottish Government implemented across all nursery, primary, and secondary schools. It is aimed at preparing young people to become successful citizens, effective contributors, confident individuals, and responsible members of their communities.
This article takes an in-depth look into the seven key principles of Curriculum for Excellence and how they are implemented in Scotland’s modern education system.
1. Achieving Excellence
According to the Scottish Government Curriculum for Excellence (CfE), the overall aim of the curriculum is to encourage learners to achieve their full potential in all aspects of their life. This means delivering a curriculum that is enjoyable, challenging, and relevant to learners’ interests and aspirations. To this end, educational experiences should be relevant to today’s culture, technology, and global context.
Learning should be creative and exciting, and appropriate to the needs, abilities, ages, and stages of learners. The main purpose of a Curriculum for Excellence is to ensure there is excellence in learning, teaching, and assessment, based upon a set of consistent principles.
To achieve excellence in learning, teachers are encouraged to focus on pupils’ thinking skills, employ collaborative learning strategies such as peer teaching, and develop curricular materials that reflect contemporary contexts and applications of the curriculum. In terms of teaching, excellence is achieved through the delivery of personalised learning, effective classroom management, and engaging and effective approaches to pedagogy and assessment. Finally, excellence in assessment is delivered through processes that support the development of skills and knowledge and accurately reflect learners’ progression.
2. Widening Access and Raising Standards
Another key principle of the Curriculum for Excellence is the widening access and raising of standards. This relates to the provision of an equitable and appropriate curricular experience for all learners, irrespective of ability, background, gender, or disability.
To this end, CfE advocates for learners to have equal opportunity to access a broad range of opportunities and experiences. Widening access and raising standards requires elimination of barriers to learning as well as creating new opportunities for learning and development. To achieve this, CfE encourages the use of flexible and mixed approaches to teaching and learning, use of technology and digital devices, innovative assessment and evaluation techniques, and personalised learning environments.
Additionally, CfE advocates for the use of Learner Participation, which entrenches learners’ rights to be consulted and involved in decisions that affect their learning.
3. Cultures, Values and Social Context
Another important principle of Curriculum for Excellence is the inclusion of cultures, values, and social contexts. This relates to the development of an understanding of Scotland’s culture and history, and its place in the world. In order to achieve this, the curriculum should have an emphasis on active learning and exploration, particularly through the use of investigative and reflective activities such as field trips, museum visits, and discussions.
It should also promote high quality knowledge, understanding, and skills in areas such as literacy, numeracy, science, humanities, and the arts. The emphasis on cultures, values, and social contexts also includes the use of cultural practices and beliefs from a variety of cultures, social and economic contexts, and beliefs and values from a range of traditions and backgrounds.
The aim of this is to promote respect for diversity and identity, as well as to develop an understanding of global issues, particularly those related to inequality and human rights. As such, curriculum design should incorporate approaches aimed at fostering a sense of global citizenship and responsibility for the world’s environment.
4. Entitlement and Flexibility
A fourth key principle of Curriculum for Excellence is the concept of entitlement and flexibility. Entitlement refers to providing learners with access to a wide range of learning and assessment processes, experiences, and activities, while flexibility refers to the ability to tailor learning processes and experiences to meet the needs of different learners.
To this end, CfE aims to encourage teachers to employ a range of approaches to teaching and learning, including inquiry-based learning, problem-solving, and the promotion of transferable skills. The concept of entitlement and flexibility also places a greater emphasis on using a variety of learning environments and contexts, and providing greater support to those who require it. In addition to the use of various teaching approaches and contexts, CfE also encourages teachers to incorporate independent learning, self-evaluation, and formative assessment techniques into the curriculum to ensure a holistic approach to learning and development.
5. A Capacity-Building Approach
A fifth principal of Curriculum for Excellence is the capacity-building approach. This involves the use of curriculum design to ensure the development of skills, values, and knowledge relevant to today’s world.
This means that curricular activities should be designed such that they contribute to the development of both specific and transferable skills that are required for success in life, society, and work. Additionally, the curriculum should provide learners with an understanding of the global challenges facing the world today and make them aware of their own responsibility to contribute to positive change in their community, nation, and the world. The capacity-building approach also involves the use of real life applications, resources, and experiences as teaching tools.
This is to ensure that learners build upon their existing skills, knowledge, and values, as well as to promote critical thinking and problem-solving capabilities. To further facilitate a capacity-building approach, teachers are encouraged to provide learners with active learning opportunities, such as project-based learning, experiential learning activities, and assess-reassess processes.
6. Quality, Coherence and Craftsmanship
The sixth principle of Curriculum for Excellence relates to the concepts of quality, coherence, and craftsmanship. These concepts encompass the use of high-quality learning objectives, materials, and processes, while also taking into account the importance of resources and flexible approaches to teaching and learning.
In other words, this means that curricular activities should be designed to ensure that standards of excellence, coherence, and craftsmanship are met, and that learners understand the purpose, relevance, and implications of the activities. Quality, coherence, and craftsmanship in curriculum design also involves considering how activities link to other learning objectives, how resources are used to maximise learning, and how the curriculum can be tailored to the needs of different learners. To this end, Curriculum for Excellence encourages teachers to consider the importance of open-ended activities and questions, the use of varied assessment techniques, and ways to promote collaborative learning.
7. Responsive and Reflective Delivery
Finally, the seventh principle of Curriculum for Excellence is that of responsive and reflective delivery. This relates to the ability of teachers and learners to undertake engaged inquiry-based approaches, critically analyse contexts of learning, and develop their own solutions and approaches to problems. Responsive and reflective delivery also encourages teachers to use feedback to refine and enhance their teaching practices and to evaluate their teaching strategies.
To facilitate responsive and reflective delivery, CfE outlines the importance of using a teaching approach that is based on creating positive learning relationships, active enquiry and investigation, use of individual and collaborative learning opportunities, and consideration of the limitations of current approaches. Furthermore, CfE emphasises the need for teachers to develop the skills and understanding necessary to manage change in their classroom environment, such as managing challenging behaviour, providing effective feedback, and assessing learning.
Curriculum for Excellence is a Scottish initiative designed to ensure learners receive a modern and relevant education that prepares them for the globalised world. This is achieved through the implementation of seven core principles which are aimed at improving excellence in learning, widening access and raising standards, instilling cultures and values, providing flexibility and entitlement, encouraging a capacity-building approach, establishing quality, coherence, and craftsmanship, and promoting responsive and reflective delivery.
Thus, through the implementation of these principles, Curriculum for Excellence works to ensure Scotland’s modern education is of high quality and prepares young people to become informed and confident citizens of the world.