They will learn to divide by 1000, but cannot count to 100
Will Macedonia manage to build an educational system in which students will think with their own head, be critical and researchers? It is offered by the new program for primary school students to third grade, established under a British model. Teachers warn that it will be complex and difficult
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This school year students from first to third grade are going to study according to the same curriculum as their peers from the UK. Without previous preparations, at the end of the year they will have to learn to count to a thousand or to divide, although they do not count to one hundred, nor have been taught mathematical operations multiplication and division. These are the most frequent teachers’ remarks regarding the new program.
But experts in charge of implementing innovations emphasize quality sides of the curriculum in which the student will have a central place and will focus primarily on critical thinking.
The knowledge of Macedonian students in Math and Science is not at the desired level, so the government has tasked the Bureau for Development of Education (BDE) to undertake activities to improve the quality of education, says Vesna Horvatovic after the decision students in elementary education from this school year to study according to the curriculum prepared by the world-known educational center of Cambridge, UK.
“Adapting the curriculum in the subjects Mathematics and Natural Sciences is an excellent basis for the continuous development of the student in the following periods of education. The programs include a new concept to the study of mathematics and natural sciences, greater scientific research by the teacher and students. This will develop self-confidence and critical thinking among students, they can freely think and use research evidence. With the implementation of these curricula the student is placed in the center of the educational process”, says Horvatovic for Inbox7.
It will be difficult for the first grade pupils
The hardest will be for the first-graders, said Nikolina Nasteska, teacher at the elementary school “Mirce Acev” village Lazani, municipality Dolneni.
“The new program is too hard and is not tailored to the age of first graders. They have no prior preparation and it will be really difficult to prepare children for what is expected in second and third grade. Inadequate program will entail other consequences as external testing. We, teachers will be evaluated based on the children’s results who will study under the new program that will be hard to realize”, says Nasteska.
Lence Jovanovska, teacher of Macedonian language and literature in secondary electro-mechanical school “St. Naum Ohridski” from Ohrid says that the education in the UK and Macedonia cannot be compared at all. “Knowledge is not acquired only through tests. Specifically here, educational process is lost at the expense of education and it really needs to be addressed. The sense of the educational process is to build students who will think with their head, not students that sometimes by chance circle one of the answers in tests and thus receive transitional grades or higher than those they may deserve”, says Jovanovska.
Horvatovic assures that the adapted curricula in mathematics and natural sciences and current curricula of the nine-year primary education essentially do not differ much.
“This means that special attention is paid to the method approach to the implementation of the curriculum which is spiral, that is, students study a particular topic, and later are back to it and study it at a higher level. The curricula include research work which should encourage students to ask questions and themselves or with the help of teachers to come up with an answer. Special emphasis is placed on solving problems through which pupils with examples should learn that math and science will help them to solve certain problems in everyday life”, explains Horvatovic.
About effects and adverse effects
In addition to the quality of the new curriculum made after a model of the English primary education, Horvatovic points out, as she said, new and quality textbooks and manuals. Fance Josevska, teacher at the elementary school “Elpida Karamandi” from Bitola says that the experience of the so far teacher training does not promise anything good, that the implementation of the new curriculum will go hard, and the effects will be very small or even worse, there will be adverse effects. “None of us are against reforms, but first it has to be done through a pilot project that will see the effects of this change. We were told about the new program for students in third and fourth grade in April. What we spotted as a flaw in the new program is that there are inconsistencies in the textbooks. For example for Mathematics students in third grade will have to learn to divide with remainder, and in second grade they do not learn division at all. Or they will now have to learn to count to 1000 and in second grade they learn to count up to 100. This is true for other science subjects, too, but also for students from fourth and fifth grade that next school year will need to study according to this program”, says Josevska. Working conditions will also be a problem for the teachers. “An additional problem for us will be how to provide the necessary facilities for work. At the training organized by the Bureau for Development of Education we were told that we would have to make out ourselves. For example, if we need to teach multiplication by ten, for each student we will have to provide ten tools for counting, for example caps from bottles can be easily found. If a class has about thirty students then we will need 300 caps, simplest to introduce multiplication to the pupils”, says Josevska. In the new school year, students from first to third grade will learn Math and Environment according to the Cambridge curriculum.
The introduction of curricula and textbooks in the subjects of science and mathematics for students from fourth to sixth grade is provided in 2015/2016 academic year, while full implementation of the reform is provided at the start of the academic year 2016/2017, when curricula and textbooks for students from seventh to ninth grade will be introduced. Curricula will be in Macedonian, Albanian, Turkish and Serbian.
What is the “Cambridge curriculum”?
The main features of the adapted curriculum in the subjects Mathematics and Natural Sciences is the so-called spiral curriculum under which students learn particular subject, but later go back to it and learn it at a higher level and in a different context. Another feature of the new curriculum is scientific research whose goal is to direct students to become scientists. The programs include studies that encourage students to ask questions and come up with an answer with teachers’ support. This method should allow students to develop critical thinking, to think and to use the evidence they come to in the process of studying.
Another feature of the new “Cambridge curriculum” is problem solving. With this, students are expected to easily learn that math and science are important and that they will help them to solve problems in everyday life.