In the second of two articles Ger Graus argues passionately for changes to the curriculum which will excite the imagination and raise aspirations.
An urgent need
Modern, narrow programmes of academic study in schools can only ever be half (if that) of a 21st Century child’s primary and secondary education. Children’s experiences must be broad, purposeful and ‘out there’, not restricted, repetitive and ultimately dull. The need for change is urgent, especially for children from an already disadvantaged background, whose life outside of school has become even more limited during lockdown.
A practical proposal
Should we not now collectively draw up a list of experiences, outwith school, offline as well as online, that we believe our children are entitled to, by let’s say, age 7 – and then again at 11, 14, 16? Museums, galleries, restaurants, ballet, sports, concerts, teamwork, performing, receiving an award, places of work and government, visiting their capital cities, social media, YouTube, Sir David Attenborough in the Galapagos Islands should all be on the list. It is our collective duty to twitch curtains, open windows and doors, and widen horizons to a better possible, for all children to write their own narrative of their possible.
We do this through leading by example, role modelling, through early opportunities and by facilitating experiences. And when we do this, we find ourselves in a world where not every classroom has four walls, where the environment becomes a teacher. To all involved, the value of the connection between being taught in school and experiences out there will soon become very clear – believe me. It is these experiences that will lead to bigger dreams, greater aspirations and better role models. “If you have a strong purpose in life, you don’t have to be pushed. Your passion will drive you there”.
The importance of establishing a fair playing field
As we move into the second phase of the Covid-19 pandemic, it is an unfair and sad reality for many children – particularly those who are in any way disadvantaged – that the disruptions to schooling and education in a wider sense have been significant, despite hugely admirable efforts by the teaching professions during lockdown.
This is true even if children have experienced positive shifts in their perceptions of role models and aspirations for the future as a result of the commitment of many teachers prior to March 2020. Children, whose context is one of disadvantage have had little or no access to online connectivity, something that needs to be laid fairly and squarely at the doors of governments and societies as a whole. For those children there has been no sense that “The [online] environment is the third teacher”.
There is no doubt that the landscape of education is, and has been, changing, with educationalists recognising that personal development and achievement are at least as important as academic attainment and that children need a robust set of core skills for the future world of both employment and self-deployment, including leadership, collaboration, independence, initiative, creativity, communication, perseverance, resilience and flexibility.
It is now up to us to step up to the mark. If we want our children to be truly successful in life, to answer the question “Who do you want to become?” instead of “What do you want to be?”, we need to play our part, not only to accept, but also to advocate that “Every child is everybody’s responsibility”. “Becoming Me” is a journey full of awe and wonder and the role we play is vital.
Professor Dr Ger Graus OBE is the first Global Director of Education at KidZania. Before this, in 2007, he became the founding Chief Executive of the Children’s University. After growing up in the Netherlands, he came to the UK as a teacher in 1983 and has not looked back since.
Professor Graus has a monthly column, ‘Becoming Me’, in The Week Junior. In his book ‘Natural Born Learners’, author Alex Beard says of Professor Graus: “In learning terms, Ger Graus is Jean-Jacques Rousseau meets Willy Wonka.”
Support Images: kindly provided by Ger and selected from collections by –
 Roy T. Bennet
 Carla Rinaldi
 e.g. Bett’s Global Council for Education (GEC) and its ‘Manifesto for the Future of Education’
 Vanessa Langley
 The Week Junior in partnership with Prof Dr Ger Graus OBE