THE OECD has reported on Scotland’s Curriculum. The OECD is well regarded for thoroughness although its reports often need re-reading to find the subtle nuanced messages crafted carefully for policy makers to progress. The short, embargoed report available online last week included some puzzling ‘corporate speak’ alongside clearer messages.

The OECD noted the aspirations of Curriculum for Excellence are not aligned with National Qualifications. Examinations are an ongoing debate. Caution must be exercised however. Terminal assessment is needed in a mixed economy of assessment. “What” is assessed needs reviewed alongside “how” we assess. The four ‘capacities’ of Curriculum for Excellence are largely worthless words with Successful Learners, Confident Individuals, Responsible Citizens and Effective Contributors interchangeable. Their genesis was not any great intellectual engagement, but words thrown on the table late in the curriculum design processes by senior staff. That perhaps reflects how Scottish education has operated for some time.

Nevertheless, they do link to four purposes of education: sharing knowledge, developing skills, helping health and wellbeing and creating communities. Further aims for education need added with UNCRC adoption. This needs policy makers' attention. UNCRC Article 29 not only says that children’s personalities, talents and abilities must be developed, but that children should be encouraged to respect their own and other cultures and the environment. Environmental importance is already in progress via the General Teaching Council of Scotland enhancing sustainability awareness in teacher’s professional standards. However, learning about “the other” will be interesting in an education system where “nation building” has been a subtle subtext. This is ironic given the “multi-perspectivity” movement sweeping many European educators was coined by a Scottish educationalist.

The OECD noted positively that Scotland was a pioneer in the 21st century learning movement. This statement needs clarification. One might be curious– is that not what education is for? If it is, what were education and educators doing before the 21st century, if not learning? Hopefully, this loose statement in the OECD’s short report is not a sign of rhetoric and spin to come in the full report.

Scottish education’s challenge now is not “what” needs done – that has been well rehearsed in many previous reports. The challenge is the “how”. Scotland doesn’t have a strong track record on implementing change or education improvements. One academic suggested only a third of Scotland’s post-war education indicatives achieved success . Furthermore, the national education body, Education Scotland, reported that its own staff have low confidence in its ability to deliver change.

Four bodies govern Scottish education. Most appear ineffectual. THe SQA was largely discredited following two exam crises. Education Scotland is also under scrutiny and needing reform. Local authorities were questioned at the outset of recent reformist zeal. Lastly, is the General Teaching Council effective in upholding standards, especially following recent high-profile questions?

So, “who” will lead reform? One would hope educators. Alas educators and the educated are far removed from decision-making thus far. Control continues to blight change in our classrooms. Until that changes, the OECD’s report could be another report to sit on dusty classroom shelves.

Neil McLennan is senior lecturer and director of leadership programmes at Aberdeen University. He is a former director of the Scottish College for Educational Leadership.

Our columns are a platform for writers to express their opinions. They do not necessarily represent the views of The Herald