What Should Schools Teach?

Disciplines, subjects, and the pursuit of truth

November 2017
More details
  • Publisher
    UCL IOE Press
  • Published
    16th November 2017
  • ISBN 9781782772170
  • Language English
  • Pages 172 pp.
  • Size 6.125" x 9.5"

The blurring of the distinctions between pedagogy and curriculum, and experience and knowledge, has resulted in a generation of teachers who are confused about the part that each of these plays in the education of children. Schools may still teach through subjects, but there is little consensus about what constitutes a subject and what they are for. The aim of this book is to contribute to a more robust rationale for, and understanding of, what schools should teach – the curriculum. This is not to dismiss the significance of pedagogy, how children learn or the personal knowledge and experiences they bring to the classroom. Rather, to become a successful teacher depends upon understanding the respective roles of each. But the curriculum – what to teach – is logically prior to how to teach it. There is no more important question in education.

"A necessary corrective to the corrosive impact of naive post-modernist thought on curriculum theory, this book provides secure foundations for both curriculum theory and curriculum design. It should be essential reading for both policymakers and teachers."

Tim Oates, CBE, Group Director of Assessment Research and Development, Cambridge Assessment

"A highly accessible exploration of the relationship between social-realist approaches to knowledge production and ways of making such knowledge available through school subjects. Readable and thought-provoking."

John Beck, Emeritus Fellow, Homerton College, Cambridge

"I fully endorse the editors’ impassioned plea to take the content of the school curriculum seriously. This book is a call to arms for all teachers and educators to refocus on the central job of schools: as Matthew Arnold put it, to pass on 'the best which has been thought and said'."

David Perks, Principal, East London Science School

"What knowledge do our children need to know and why? How will they acquire the reason and imagination to ask: What is right, what is beauty, and what is truth? This book brings these profound questions back to the centre of educational enquiry where they belong. We all need to read it."

Professor Elizabeth Rata, University of Auckland

"This thought-provoking collection encourages educationalists to think again, not only about what is taught but also why it is taught. It is a welcome contribution to the on-going debate about knowledge."

Jan Derry, Professor of Philosophy of Education, UCL Institute of Education

Foreword, by Michael Young
1. Disciplinary knowledge and school subjects, by Alex Standish and Alka Sehgal Cuthbert
2. Mathematics, by Cosette Crisan
3. Foreign languages, by Shirley Lawes
4. Physics, by Gareth Sturdy
5. Biology, by Fredrik Berglund
6. History, by Christine Counsell
7. Geography, by Alex Standish
8. English Literature, by Alka Sehgal Cuthbert
9. Art, by Dido Powell

Alex Standish

Alex Standish is a Senior Lecturer in Geography Education at the UCL Institute of Education.

Alka Sehgal Cuthbert

Alka Sehgal Cuthbert has spent two decades as an English teacher at secondary level and as a lecturer in cultural studies in higher education.