What is more important: knowing facts or knowing how to find facts? What competencies and knowledge do our children need to be successful in the 21st century?
New Zealand’s government believes it has the answer in the form of a new curriculum, which “represents a shift away from focusing on knowing facts and figures to knowing also how to use knowledge effectively and apply it outside the classroom."
As an idealistic idea, it’s not a bad one. Why cram your brain with dates and formulae, which you can look up in the textbook or on the Internet? Why memorise concepts you don’t necessarily understand or know how to apply in your decision-making? Intelligence and school success should not be measured with, or equated to, the ability to memorise. Do away with learning by rote and replace it with teaching our children to think, right?
On the other hand, as somebody pointed out to me:
The shift away from learning facts is a bit of a worry. You wouldn't want to be left hanging in the middle of something (like surgery) to wait while the doctor quickly nipped into an Internet chat room to check how to stop your bleeding.
Whether you believe that it’s facts or the global overview that is the most important, is - naturally - dictated by your own unique Learning Style. If you like detailed information, you are most likely an analytic thinker. If, however, you value an overview above all else and consider particulars much less important, you are probably a holistic thinker.
Are you an analytic or a global thinker?
To find out your own or your child’s learning style,
have a look at this free online demo.
Traditionally, schools have been geared towards analytic teaching and learning. New Zealand is trying to move away from that in favour of a less factual education system. If that means accommodating students whose information processing is non-sequential, while at the same time retaining the stimulation for sequentially-thinking students, that can only be a good thing.
Meanwhile, in the latest New Zealand education news, a furious debate broke out over a Level 3 Geography exam question (this equates to Year 13 and University Entrance can be gained by successfully completing NCEA Level 3). Five photographs (of images such as a park to a city's central business district) were shown, and students had to explain how each image could be viewed from a feminist perspective.
Some people consider it a wonderful question that allows students to think outside the square, others see it as an opinion-based non-factual question with a built-in advantage towards girls.
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