Could the Curriculum for Excellence be a ‘Sunk Cost’’?
The aim of Curriculum for excellence and the reason it was put in place was to help children and young people, across Scotland, gain knowledge, skills and attributes needed for life as well as the skills needed for learning and work (Education Scotland, 2018). The Curriculum for Excellence has been the framework for Scottish education for the past 8 years, and was created by government officials over a long period of time to give teachers more flexibility over what and how they teach (BBC, 2017). Although the government would argue that the Curriculum for Excellence has a purpose to create successful learners, confident individuals, responsible citizens and effective contributors, formally known as the 4 capacities, and further framework to create the seven principles, to ensure children’s learning is specified to them, many people would argue that it has many flaws. One of the arguments that is made is that the Curriculum for Excellence could in fact be widening the attainment gap, not closing it, therefore it is failing (BBC, 2017).
What is a ‘sunk cost’?
A sunk cost is defined as something which has had a lot of time, money or effort put into it however if it starts to fail, those who have invested the time, money or effort, carry on with it as they don’t want it to appear wasteful (Arkes and Blumer, 1985).
Can this be what has happened with the Curriculum for Excellence?
For me what stands out the most from the arguments that have been highlighted about the flaws of Curriculum for Excellence is that it could in fact be widening the attainment gap and not closing it (BBC, 2017). Paterson (2018) makes this apparent when he highlights that Scotland use to be well ahead of the OECD (the programme for international student assessment) average however this has declined drastically. Paterson (2018) furthers this by summarising the results from the annual Scottish Survey of literacy and numeracy which show a fall in attainment in both of these curricular areas. This evidence then brings the realisation that the Curriculum for Excellence is not closing the attainment gap in this sense as attainment as a whole is falling from where it was before Curriculum for Excellence was introduced. Paterson (2018) then goes on to explain that on comparing the Curriculum for Excellence to other international educational structures, CfE can be seen to ‘neglect’ knowledge and focus more on skill. Hirsch (2016) furthers this and explains just how much knowledge matters. He does not dismiss the fact that skills do matter however shows the best way to gain skills is through gaining knowledge. Paterson (2018) goes on to highlight that schools provide the opportunity for children to gain knowledge who would not get it from home. Therefore, if schools stopped teaching structured knowledge, the inequality of knowledge will widen because the children of the well-educated and the wealthy will receive this structured knowledge in other ways. This then makes me indicates to me that curriculum for excellence can do better within this aspect and therefore makes me consider that is could in fact only be the start of its sunken cost.
On the other hand of this argument is that the Curriculum for Excellence is so deeply embedded, that removing it and creating something new would cause enormous upheaval. There would never be an easy way to change it and would mean that a whole generation would have been disadvantaged even more so within their education (Paterson, 2018). Therefore, meaning that the children of Scotland would be at an even bigger disadvantage within education if we were to move away from the Curriculum for Excellence compared to if we just stick to it and try and work on it.
Furthermore, looking at an opposing argument, the Scottish Government (2017) published information suggesting that those children because of Curriculum for Excellence are achieving within areas of reading, writing and numeracy. This then provides evidence that in fact the Curriculum for Excellence is providing the children of Scotland with a fairly good education however, it is the question of could it be better?
Overall, from my research I would say that arguably the Curriculum for Excellence is a sunk cost as it could be better. However, when looking at changing the whole education framework this is a very unrealistic approach as it would disrupt too much learn for very long period of time. The time, effort and money that would be spent creating a new framework, re-educating teachers would be significant. Having spent so much time, effort and money on the Curriculum for Excellence I feel we are in too deep now to change it. No child’s education should reduce due to a failing curriculum; therefore, I feel the best approach to this issue is that the Curriculum for Excellence is used as a very basic framework and we now begin to develop and work on the sections of it that are just not quite working.
BBC (2010) New curriculum could be ‘disastrous’, says education expert. Available at: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-scotland-politics-41134835 (Accessed: 1 November 2018)
Education Scotland (2018) What is Curriculum for Excellence. Available at: https://education.gov.scot/scottish-education-system/policy-for-scottish-education/policy-drivers/cfe-(building-from-the-statement-appendix-incl-btc1-5)/What%20is%20Curriculum%20for%20Excellence? (Accessed: 1 November 2018).
Arkes and Blumer (1985) The Psychology of sunk cost. Available at:https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/0749597885900494 (Accessed: 2 November 2018).
Paterson, L. (2018) Scotland’s Curriculum for Excellence: the betrayal of a whole generation.
Hirsch, D.E. (2016) Why Knowledge Matters. Available at: https://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED568821 (Accessed: 2 November 2018).
Scottish Government (2017) Achievement of Curriculum for Excellence Levels 2016/2017. Available at: https://www.gov.scot/publications/achievement-curriculum-excellence-cfe-levels-2016-17/ (Accessed: 2 November 2018).