One of the weaknesses of our current educational system is our over-emphasis on traditional subject areas. This thinking is exam-driven, out of date and unresponsive to the evolving needs of individual students, Third Level colleges, society at large and the wider economy. The initial plans to reform the Junior Certificate recognised this situation and sought to reduce the amount of time spent by students studying traditional subjects. Instead it promoted continuous assessment and the development of short courses which could reflect student interests, utilise local resources and display the specialist competences of individual teachers.
By lessening the focus on the exam at Junior Cycle level, space could be created for inter-disciplinary studies, which could:
- address the personal challenges facing young people today
- give students more control over their learning
- facilitate collaborative learning
- enable students to both comprehend and attempt to solve complex challenges facing our world
- recognise and utilise the benefits of technology in the classroom and
- reflect the changing nature of both further education and work
- promote deep learning rather than superficial rote learning
A very exciting day presenting our sustainability projects in UCC for ECO-DENS
Along with our general approach to assessment , we shall run Phenomenon-Based Learning weeks, inspired by the Finnish education system. For 2/3 weeks a year, we shall suspend the normal timetable and the students will study phenomenon chosen from a selection provided by the staff. These phenomenon could be arts/music/culture/scientific based and could include topics such as 'The Refugee Crisis' which would include economics, history, politics, geography, sociology, statistics etc.
Apart from these weeks, further interdisciplinary work will be done through short courses on mythology, philosophy, sustainable development, debating and permaculture as well as through a large-scale art collaboration with Sample Studios entitled 'Metamorphosis', which will culminate in a curated exhibition in May 2017.
For us, creativity and critical thinking are best promoted when students experience the fusion of traditional subjects.