Scots and the Curriculum
Scottish Culture an Teacher Qualifications
Nae doot some o ye micht hae heard the apparently apocryphal tale aboot the teacher wha was accused o cawin a boy ‘an effin doormat’ when whit he actually said was ‘your faculties are dormant!’ Weel it isnae apocryphal, but true, because it happened in ma schuil an in ma depairtment. Tho it wisnae me that said it, it’s aye kinna hauntit me, for in mony weys it sums up the muckle chasm atween the ‘learned’ an the learner in oor educational system.
Surely ane o the great paradoxes o Scottish culture is the fact that mony Scots still hae a deep-ruitit faith in the merits o an educational system that historically has duin a great deal tae unnermine their ain identity, leain them ignorant aboot, or even leukin doon on, the history an culture o their ain land an often makin them ashamed o the wey they talk.
For the majority that has been the educational experience o generations o Scots, as it wis mine, in a system that didnae lea us feelin awfae guid aboot oorsels an oor ain culture. In fact we didnae even ken we had such a thing as ‘culture’ as we were often made tae feel gey uncultured an uncouth every time we opened oor mooths. Even when I first began teachin, in the early seiventies, the literature o Scotland was a foreign land tae maist o ma colleagues, while forty year later it is probably true tae say that mony (probably maist) still enter the teachin profession, especially in saicondary, withoot haein duin ony study o Scottish culture at university level – a gey bizarre situation for ony country tae be in.
I’ve already talked aboot various reports or recommendations on Scottish culture owre the past twenty year or thereaboots, wi gey few o them actually implementit or taen seriously at national or local level, especially the report that never appeared in 1998 because it suggestit pittin Scottish culture at the hert o the curriculum.
However, ane o the maist trumpeted o these was the National Cultural Strategy Report (2000), ‘Creating our Future … Minding Our Past’ (mair like forgettin oor past) – that hardly mentioned literature never mind Scottish literature, tho it did hae somethin interestin tae say aboot language: ‘We shall …. ensure that through their initial training and CPD, teachers are well prepared to promote and develop all pupils’ language skills … and … continue to support the production of resources which encourage language diversity and learning about all the languages spoken in Scotland.’ Fine words, but note it mentioned neither Scots nor Gaelic an I doot it had even Scots in mind, sae it wis nae surprise that nuthin wis duin tae transform the rhetoric intae reality, for the government then, as noo, seemed tae hae nae awareness o the idea that encouragin language diversity etc, micht weel haud the key tae closin the attainment gap.
Mair than a decade later, the Scottish Studies Report made it clear that the new award has ‘implications for entry requirements and for initial teacher education’ (teacher trainin). Efter a period o consultation in 2013 (including some ASLS persuasion again) the General Teaching Cooncil Scotland produced a short statement sayin that as pairt o the teacher education programme, ‘students should develop awareness of how the study of Scottish culture can be developed within the curriculum.’
Weel it’s mibbie no aw that impressive (in fact sadly lackin in mony weys) but tryin tae be positive aboot it, we could say it is at least ‘a mention’ an mibbie somethin tae build on. Ane o the main problems is that it disnae say wha’s responsible for developin it, an in a cram-packed college year it will be gey difficult indeed, even if students hae ony prior knowledge o Scottish culture fae their university studies. The reality is that mony (probably a majority) hae nane at aw.
Yet is it really aw that muckle tae expect, as the ASLS submission argued, that aw new teachers shuid hae at least some basic knowledge o Scottish culture an language in relevant areas, or that onybody enterin oor teachin profession fae a non-Scottish backgruin, coud reasonably be expected tae study at least ane appropriate course in Scottish culture within say twa or three year o entry, in baith primary an saicondary?
If ye compare the situation here wi that o oor Irish kizzens ye will fin that Gaelic an Irish history qualifications are entry requirements, while in the likes o France, Italy an especially Poland – tae name a few wha hae gey detailed curricular or entry requirements aboot their ain culture – it is an inescapable obligation an naebody wid get a job withoot it. In fact in maist countries in the world the need tae be weel qualified tae teach yer ain culture is simply taen for grantit, but clearly it still isnae here. An if ye suggestit makin it compulsory, the Scottish government wid nae doot be accused o tartan brainwashin or worse by the usual glaur flingers, cringers an chantywrasslers!
Yet in spite o aw the shortcomins o Curriculum for Excellence, teachers noo hae a clear duty unner its Principles an Practice document tae ‘develop an appreciation of Scotland’s vibrant literary and linguistic heritage’ an tae mak shuir that it ‘suffuses’ the curriculum. Thus teachers that fail to deliver this are no only failin tae implement national policy, but are failin tae educate their weans aboot the culture o the country they were born in or grew up in. The problem is that we are daein next tae nuthin tae actually mak the Principles an Practice a reality unless are we content tae jist mak it a principle withoot botherin aboot the practice.
Yet unless the requirements are chynged alang the lines suggestit, there is simply nae wey o makkin siccar that new entrants tae the profession will be suitably qualified tae teach oor bairns aboot Scottish culture. Is this really a lot tae ask when the bare minimum entry requirements the ASLS suggestit would actually be leuked on as kinna peely wally, in fact totally inadequate, in ony ither European country? Nae ither country wid permit sicca a shamefu neglect o its ain heritage in its educational system an until somethin is duin aboot it, there is nae wey that muckle educational chasm will be bridged ony time suin.