Holidays provide a time for reflection, to take stock, to catch your breadth as well as to catch up with family and friends. In doing this, whilst also catching up on reading, I came to reflect on the increasingly new challenges that we now face in education, welfare and medicine due to the extended continuum of life. In a previous blog post I wrote about the new challenges that premature babies create to the education system in that survival rates are increasing so much (due to advances in medical science) but that this potentially had an impact upon a child’s cognitive development and as such the education system needed to respond to this.
However at the other end of the spectrum we know that people are living longer (500,000 over 90+) but with this comes the challenge of dealing with increasing mental health demands. There are estimated as being 800,000 people in the UK with dementia with an expected increase up to 1 million in the next 10 years. Dealing with dementia brings its own challenges for families and societies.The point of this entry however is to consider how the education system responds to the two very different challenges that I have identified?
If we add in a third dimension of curriculum reform which is taking place in England and consider who is the curriculum for and what it is for then taking into account the ‘extended circle of life’ would seem to be in need of consideration. Considering the changing social, ethical, financial, emotional and cultural issues associated with dementia, mental health and changing demographics would seem to be something that all children should engage with? It would seem to be too important and too significant a change in society and all our lives to leave to an occasional assembly from a local charity. Equally the increasing challenges of general mental health in an increasingly complex society would also seem to be a key consideration of any curriculum reform. It would however appear that this is not the case and current curriculum reforms seem to paradoxically transcend reality and operate in a disconnected reality of privileged knowledge bereft of context.
Of course it is up to schools what and how they teach children and it would be hoped that all schools would engage children in thinking about both the rapidly changing world that they will work in as well as the society they will contribute to. Unfortunately this is not always the case and the engagement with rich contextual changes in society increasingly become marginalised in pursuit of a narrow definition of education.