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Choosing what we teach

Schools should focus on what is not taught, but matters a lot…
Much is spoken about the curriculum, syllabus etc. However, at the end of the day, the usefulness of what is taught is very topic dependent, even within a prescriptive set syllabus.

A lecture by Professor Perkins from MIT focused on what is taught in schools around the world. He contended that most of what is taught in schools is largely useless i.e. they have poor “knowledge destinies”. A knowledge destiny is the future fate of a topic that is taught. A topic with a good knowledge destiny is one that can be converted into meaningful action by a large proportion of the student body.

Take the example of quadratic equations. This is taught in almost every country diligently, but has very limited use in real life for 99% of the population. Contrast this with the concept of democracy – this is fundamental to the way we live in many countries, but scant attention is paid to this in school syllabi.

As the professor summed up succinctly, schools should stop focusing on “what is taught but matters not” and focus on “not taught but matters a lot”.