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Charting changes to education system

For the guinea pig generation it has to be a worry.

Not to mention for parents with more than one eye on the jobless figures for school and university leavers. Young Scots sitting the new Scottish replacement exams in a few weeks' time are the involuntary cannon fodder when the starting gun is fired on another new world order in education. An unhappy accident of birth and timing for those who left Primary 7 in 2009/10.

I don't dismiss their anxiety for a moment. Nor the uncertainty that attends any change in the qualifications required to wave in front of admission boards or employers. And being thrust into the centre of that change isn't easy.

Yet what would also be distressing is if that understandable anxiety about the exam structure also undermined confidence in the Curriculum for Excellence as a whole, or the radical and important thinking behind it. When you look at the divergence of policy initiatives north and south of the border post-devolution, education is one of the areas where the fork in the road shows the sharpest variation.

The English Education Secretary, Michael Gove, ironically educated in Scotland, has displayed all the calm thoughtfulness of a man with hyper active attention deficit disorder as he interferes in every aspect of education delivery including curriculum priorities. So much for small government!

Much of his motivation harks back to some perceived golden age when pupils boasted immaculate reading, writing and counting skills and an insatiable interest in classics and battle dates.

The problem with dwelling in the educational past is it rarely equips you for present employment. The four pillars of Scotland's modern curriculum from three to 18 are learning successfully, growing in self-confidence and self-respect, understanding responsible citizenship and contributing innovatively to modern society.

And, underpinning these, is the conviction that by both learning and teaching creatively we turn out young people with the self-reliance, flexibility, capacity for lateral thought and team working which employers across all sectors are seeking. In previous generations that creativity was carefully packed away in its own box and bolted on to the "major" subjects, as and when there was time and a suitably qualified teacher available. Post-primary, the expressive arts were a discrete subject.

In contrast the aim of the CfE is to unleash that creativity across every and any subject the pupil selects. And that is a natural fit for a world in which young people effortlessly apply their own imagination to the myriad technology now available to them.

Tonight on Radio Four there is the first in a three-part series My Teacher is an App. It examines how the use of electronic tablets in US classrooms has enabled children to make huge strides in subjects to which they were previously indifferent. One headteacher argues: "We've been losing some of our most creative minds, the model of education is 200 years old. We have to change that."

Just as importantly, that approach has helped wipe out the privilege gap between schools in more affluent areas and those with slimmer budgets. In Scotland some of these changes are already producing results. It's not news music tuition and other art forms enhance confidence and learning ability, but we're also beginning to understand that areas like video gaming can be hugely effective too. When you think about it, what's more logical than using material and technologies which interest children to ensure learning is fascinating and enjoyable? Maybe even addictive.

Since the CfE came into being, Education Scotland, Creative Scotland, The General Teaching Council Scotland, the Scottish Qualifications Authority, the Association of Directors of Education and Skills Development Scotland have all signed up to a national Creative Learning Plan.

Compare and contrast the increasing fragmentation in England with a raft of new and experimental schools subject to a hotch-potch of funding arrangements and pursuing a variety of suck-it-and-see agendas.

Alongside that patchwork quilt, endlessly re-designed to reflect Mr Gove's latest light-bulb moment, Scotland's changes seem markedly less threatening and considerably better thought through.

Contextual targeting label: 
Education

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