Curriculum 21 – resistance is growing

Curriculum 21 – resistance is growing

Swiss Conference of Cantonal Ministers of Education (EDK) causes educational disaster and ruins Switzerland as an educational location

Initiatives against Curriculum 21 have been launched in 11 of the 21 German-speaking Swiss Cantons. In some of these cantons the vote will take place as early as in the coming months. The resistance against the bureaucratic dictate imposed from above is great – greater than the educational bureaucracy expected. Curriculum 21 is threatening to turn to waste paper. Now authorities and lobby groups are using ever new manoeuvres in their attempts to nevertheless introduce the ineligible curriculum.

A comprehensive remodeling of the Swiss educational landscape

Rl. The coming educational disaster, organized by the German Swiss Conference of Cantonal Ministers of Education (EDK-D) and their staff, has become ever more apparent for the past several years. The shortcomings of Curriculum 21 have extensively been analysed and clearly reported. However, the EDK and its gaggle of experts seem to be downright insensitive and resistant to facts. They are stubbornly adhering to Curriculum 21, and this in view of the fact that their core mandate was to merely harmonise the transitions and the educational goals among the cantons, but certainly not to carry out a comprehensive remodeling of the Swiss educational landscape. Next generations shall have to bear the consequences of these irresponsible proceedings.

Uneffective teaching

Before expanding on the dodges used in introducing this curriculum and on the following consequences, we will briefly recall to mind its most serious shortcomings. The principal criticism of Curriculum 21 is its ineligible educational and learning concept. Although specialist circles appreciatively cited the world’s unique megatrial by the Australian educational researcher John Hattie (2013) also in this part of the world, his essential instructions concerning the uselessness of a constructivist understanding of instruction did not find their way into Curriculum 21. And they are the victims of Curriculum 21: Children who are to teach themselves the subject matter in a self-organised way – all alone and individually! This is a clear contradiction to  stringent, well-managed and stimulating teaching, such as Hattie has worked out from 50,000 empirical studies as being essentially effective.

Curriculum 21 – googling instead of knowledge

Our knowledge, that was developed in the past centuries, has been implemented for teaching in educational and factually adapted specialist didactics, allowing the schoolchildren to gain a well-founded expertise. But with the new comprehensive school subjects prescribed by Curriculum 21 (for example nature, environment and society), knowledge building becomes a question of luck. A systematic knowledge building, which would correspond to the given knowledge structure, is just about actively prevented. Being able to “google” is of no use for school leavers. Without a sound basis of knowledge googling does not help them. This method of teaching does not lead to their being “independent” – it leads to illiteracy and thus to disempowerment. (Konrad Liessmann. “Geisterstunde. Die Praxis der Unbildung.” (Ghost hour. The practice of illiteracy. Vienna 2014)).

Social learning neglected

Up to date, social learning was learnt and practiced in a class community led by a teacher. Due to the useless learning concept of the curriculum, this will finally degenerate into a loose meeting in a room (“learning environment”), with a learning guide playing an advisory role. Constant and longer ongoing cooperation can no longer be trained, the conflicts which normally result from this disappear, and therefore constructive conflict resolution models can no longer be learned. This also happens to the practise of concise and lasting cooperation with a teacher (a “supervisor” in later working life), this contact will now remain superficial.

Indoctrination instead of freedom

Another problem, which is generally no longer discussed in detail nowadays, is the extensive state-controlled influence on children. One example is the controversial sexual education according to UNO gender guidelines (LBGT). As the resistance against this indoctrination was increasingly growing louder in 2013, some words in the second edition of Curriculum 21 were replaced, which is typical enough. But as to content, everything remains the same. Another example, less popular but similarly extensive in its claim, is the new understanding of the world and the environment (including education for sustainable development), by means of which the curriculum tacitly departs from the Christian-Western traditions without being questioned by anyone.
If we also take into account the curriculum’s concept of competence, which says that one does not only have to “know” and to “be able to do” something, but must also “want” it, then this indoctrination takes an almost evil turn. One thing is certain: Curriculum 21 will not be the means of educating responsible and free citizens.

A dead horse

Curriculum 21 cannot be upheld, neither professionally or politically, nor ethically. It belongs to the rubbish dump of history. But which are the means and tricks used to try and make this dead horse run? Here are some facts:

Curriculum 21 – citizens and experts are bypassed

In the meantime it has been widely recognised  that Curriculum 21 is not a Swiss child. Its mother is a failed American “educational offensive” (Diane Ravitch), and its father comes from the antechamber of the Paris OECD (Andreas Schleicher). There was no background in Switzerland necessitating the creation of Curriculum 21 (see Dieter Sprock. Bologna, Pisa, Curriculum 21. Current Concerns No 20 of 23 September). Concrete EDK proposals as to which scholastic goals should be reached by the pupils in all cantons and when they should be reached had already been made available by 2011, in order to fulfill the 2006 constitutional obligation of harmonization. Interestingly, however, the EDK administration had started with the project “Curriculum 21” much earlier! As early as 2004 – two years before the adoption of the article on harmonization in the Federal Constitution – the EDK had planned the HarmoS consortium as a “strategic priority project” with competence orientation. Curriculum 21 is the further development of this useless constructivist approach imported from the USA – a truly foolish act in its delusional perfection and couldn’t-care-less-attitude.

Under clause of secrecy

It was obvious that Curriculum 21 would have failed at the outset as soon as its controversial guidelines were announced, so for example the abolition of age-group classes in favour of cycles, the introduction “verifiable” sections  of content (competences) or the new interdisciplinary goals. So the project was worked out under clauses of secrecy. At that time many educational experts had tried to get involved in the specialist discussion. They were rejected. Obviously a discussion was not welcome!

Homeopathic revision

Consistently, there was no correct consultation process. The controversial points were excluded from the “consultation”. But even in this “consultation” the criticisms were more than numerous and clear. However, relevant objections were disregarded, such as the question of access to cantonal schools or universities. Also the reduction of practical content was not questioned. Correction according to criticism was included in the revised version only concerning irrelevant points and in homeopathic doses. For example, the number of over 3,000 competences, which led to an outcry in the press, was reduced to 300, merely by proclaiming most of them as sub-competences without further ado, which then were assigned to main competences. The total number remained the same. The scope of the curriculum, which had been severely criticized, was reduced by leaving out individual words instead of by reducing the content as required. There are many more examples. The whole thing was a farce, but everyone was supposed to feel that he could have had a say!
The democratic veto was deliberately bypassed via the route of the politically unauthorized EDK. Similar “consultation procedures” have been and are now being carried out in the individual cantons. Here a person’s possible influence lies in the parts-per-thousand range.

Authority propaganda instead of referendum campaign

In the first cantonal votes concerning topics around Curriculum 21, a frightening deficit of democratic attitude came to light. The EDK passed the ball  to the cantonal authorities. They often stoop to make the most of their superiority as authorities.
For example, a vote on an initiative which called for the Canton of St. Gallen’s withdrawal from the HarmoS Convention showed that critics are not treated with squeamishness. This initiative was first and foremost about making a vote on Curriculum 21 possible. Propaganda was sent to the teaching staff via school management and the offical channels already long before the referendum campaign started. Teachers’ associations were instrumentalised. Then, during the referendum campaign, headmasters and teachers were instructed to write  readers’ letters. The press printed defamatory reports on individual persons associated with the initiative. After this massive campaign the initiators felt that 30% agreement to the initiative was actually a very good result.

Beforehand referendum campaigning

Several cantonal education authorities set up tax-financed bodies beforehand, which were to mentally prepare the way and prevent potential opposition. Some cantons have set up “core teams” uniting heads of education and school authorities as well as teachers’ associations. They are an important cornerstone of the strategic introduction of the curriculum. In Thurgovia, for instance, there is even a “change-management-plan” (2014) with instructions as to what measures to take in order to silence teachers. A date had not yet been set for the introduction of Curriculum 21 and the initiative to introduce it had not yet been set in motion, when already the order was given out that teachers were not to comment on it and that public debate was not desired. At the same time, one or two teachers in each school were paid with tax money for letting themselves be schooled as “multiplicators”, whose job it would be to introduce the curriculum. Moreover, political parties and associations were systematically integrated into the cantonal network – less on a factual level and more according to party-political interests.

Muzzle for teachers

Finally, since the curriculum has been introduced prematurely, teachers are not allowed to express a different opinion from that of their employer, the educational authority (so-called duty of loyalty). Thus only the curriculum supporters among the teachers express their opinion publicly. But advertising material against the initiatives is being blatantly distributed to the teachers and parents via the school administration. Some heads of schools even tell their employees to vote against the initiatives. All this exceeds the limits of political decency. Such behaviour should  almost be called tax-financed manipulation.

Slowly our eyes are opened

More and more citizens are noticing the authorities’ and the EDK’s inconsistencies and discrepancies. When we look at several isolated school models, we are now getting to know about the inadequacy of “learning models” à la Curriculum 21. Meanwhile, the arguments for the curriculum are sounding hollow in the ears of more and more people. The advocates are still trying to win the teachers over by using a relaxed “we-will-manage”-language. Parents are lead to believe that their child might develop “individually”, and a learning companion would be able to spend a lot of time for the individual programs of this one child, notwithstanding the fact that he or she would have to look after 20 more children and their work “individually”.

The bill is presented

If Curriculum 21 is introduced, the next generations of pupils will continue to be markedly more poorly educated. But these generations would then be supposed to be able to cope well in a rapidly changing society and to secure their and our future. This will not work with Curriculum 21.

Unemployed with Curriculum 21

The conception of Curriculum 21 is moving in the direction of a “knowledge- and service-based society”. But where will Switzerland really stand in 10 or 20 years? What are we going to do with a generation of pupils that have been trained as “service providers” when all jobs in this segment will have been rationalised or will be done even more cheaply abroad in consequence of the digital world of “4.0”? Practical basic skills (dexterity, accuracy, diligence and endurance) are scarcely required in Curriculum 21 and are treated only marginally. However, they provide an essential basis for the small and medium-sized business – the most important economic mainstay in Switzerland.
One of Switzerland’s strengths lies in its federalist structure and competition. This also includes the school system. Directly democratic, federal, fine-tuned to the needs of every community and every canton and tailored to its strengths and weaknesses, schools can react flexibly and can be adapted to external circumstances. With the unifying Curriculum 21, Switzerland is put under centralized control, which precisely gambles away this advantage.

The Emperor’s new clothes

With each cantonal vote, it becomes harder for Curriculum 21 strategists to sell their goods to the voters. Slowly, it is becoming clear that Curriculum 21 does not cater for either the children or the entire society. It is known what constitutes a future-oriented and good school. Now it is a matter of paving the way for reason while cutting across the political-official patches of fog.

School also means education

The school is not only a place where people are educated in order to get the professional armaments for the future, but also a place where they are educated to develop responsible citizenship and personalities. This is not achieved by Curriculum 21.     •

If you want to dedicate yourself to a solid education, look at the numerous cantonal initiatives. You will also find detailed information on their websites.

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