Monthly Archives: September 2019

Learning in School is Useless?

“90% of what we teach in school is a waste of time… It just doesn’t matter.”

This is a statement that I have been asked to reflect on. In truth, it is a subject that has sparked a lot of thinking in my time since leaving school. I think there is some level of truth to it, however, realise it differs per person.

Primary school is one of the exceptions to this rule. I am of the belief that primary education is the foundation for everything else that we learn on the journey that is life. This initial foundation is the epicentre for the tools we use to pick up additional knowledge as well as being the secondary agent of socialisation — outside of the family environment — where every young person learns how to become a member of society. It is because of this that I think that it would be simply ludicrous to suggest that only one-tenth of learning in primary school is relevant.

The main strength of my thinking is what is taught in secondary education. Although I don’t necessarily agree that ninety percent of learning is a waste of time, I believe the education system is not perfect for every attendee. In a world that has more jobs and professions than ever before, not all of them are rooted in education. I have met many individuals who did not find happiness or satisfaction whilst attending school, often reflected in their grades upon leaving. However, a significantly high level of leavers from my year who did leave before beginning S5 landed on their feet when entering employment and have since got great standings in the years following. This shocked me in those days as I bought into the ‘you’re a delinquent if you don’t leave school with highers‘ mindset.

Alas, this brings me to my current train of thought. What good is forcing modern studies on someone who wants to become a barber when they are older? Why teach drama to a kid who dreams of being an artist? Outside of STEM subjects, I believe the essentiality of school subjects to a learner is subjective. What may be 90% waste of time to one person differs from the teaching I received as knowledge whilst I teach generations to come. Even though I greatly value what I learnt whilst at school, who am I to tell others how they feel on the subject? However, I do strongly believe that the skills we learn within the primary school environment very much is the basis for how we live life as we age. This is due both to being the base level of understanding as well as the vital hidden curriculum.

IB Inquiry-based Learning Task

Tuning In

  • The contexts of inquiry-based learning (IBL) is set within: school, the outside world, university.


  • Allows for a greater understanding of what the student is learning and why
  • Can be utilised in every class regardless of subject and still remain beneficial
  • Students share the responsibility of their learning
  • Allows for students to develop their communicative skills with their peers and learn more through their discussions
  • Gives students the skills to ask questions that aid their understanding


  • Teachers are not as prominent in an IBL classroom as the emphasis is more on student learning
  • Not all students are confident within themselves to ask the questions that they raising in their minds
  • Students who don’t have a good knowledge base of a particular subject may struggle to ask questions


A IBL environment is not something that I have much experience in. During my years at school, I did not have the opportunity to find myself present in a class that was focused on this approach.


Having learned about IBL during my early experiences with the module, I regret not having a chance to be a part of this approach to learning. This is because I always have a natural curiosity towards the information that I am learning and usually found — and still do to lecturers at uni to this day — myself staying behind after classes to ask questions to help my understanding of topics without feeling like I am hijacking a lesson or taking up too much time.

I am excited at the thought of being present in an IBL classroom as I believe it is a very interesting prospect and look forward to experiencing this change of pace from what I have before. Having a class catered to students’ own inquiring has the potential to fill the gaps of what I had previously felt was present in the traditional sense of teaching and look forward to having the privilege of attending.

Professional Practice Experiences

Although I did not see an active IBL class in action, I saw aspects of this from my own lessons. It must be noted that I was responsible for a P4 class, therefore their learning was not of the utmost level of Bloom’s Taxonomy. However, when delivering a class on their new topic, based on Australia, I found that their curiosity levels were very high and that they asked a lot of questions based on their interest. We had a lot of discussions before tasks and when it came time for marking, I found that a lot of pupils in the class took on the ideas of their peers having obviously been inspired from them.


Finding Out

  • What happens when a class do not engage in discussion?
  • What happens when the teacher is not sure of the answer to a question?
  • Are young children capable of this kind of thinking?
  • Can a teacher turn all their classes into an IBL class?
  • Can a teacher reject a proposal from their students?


Sorting Out

Helping your Pupils to Think for Themselves – Wilson, J. and Murdoch, K.

Question: Are young children capable of this kind of thinking?

Sentence: “When working with young pupils, it is particularly important to locate [making their thinking ‘visible] teaching withi the context of pupils’ everyday experiences. For example, an argument in the playground can be sorted out using de Bono’s hates (‘We need to put on our red hat to think about how we are feeling…’) and responses to picture storybooks can be deliberately geared around thinking strategies (‘Let’s try and be empathic thinkers – what do you think the ugly sisters would be thinking right now?’)

Phrase: “illustrate their capacity”

Word: “observations”


Making Conclusions

  • Why isn’t IBL more prominent in classes?
  • Why are pupils asking relevant questions sometimes downplayed?


Taking Action

Having learned what I have so far about IBL, I am very curious to utilise in my future classrooms. Additionally, I am very excited at the prospect of rolling it out in a younger class having previously been turned off at the idea of using it with an age range that I had been dismissive of before. Having read the abstract above, I now see the benefit of doing so. I was fortunate to see how all ages of school learners have so much potential for learning and how even at that young age, they still have a very curious mind.


IB1 Reflection

I used to think… that primary school-level kids were oblivious to a lot of the world around them. I associate this due to the memory of myself at that age and how I was essentially in my own little world with only things I was concerned with

Now I think… that children at that age vary on a large scale in that regard. Now that social media and the internet plays a much larger role in everyday life, especially the exposure children have to that now, they are much more aware of viral trends and other issues. I also think that children of that age are a lot more mentally-ahead of what children were when I was growing up and that I won’t be as eager to dismiss this in future.

IB Reflective Task IV

Since undergoing the tasks from the PowerPoint, I have learned a lot about the IB, in terms of both its origin and similarities to our own curriculum and ideology in Scotland. It is clear to see that a lot of the core values that the CfE has incorporated has been, at the least, inspired by the ideas that IB implemented back in the 1960s. This is a testament to the quality of teaching that IB presented, with it still be incredibly relevant over fifty years later. However, the CfE is not a carbon copy of IB and this can be seen in the differences between CfE and the IB’s Primary Years Programme (PYP). This post will reflect on the similarities and differences between the two.


The abundantly clear objective that immediately jumps out between both programmes is their focus on student’s learning and right to have a say on decisions that affect them. A holistic approach is evident throughout. This outlook is an essential part of the schooling process as learners are the quintessential purpose of school so their interests are paramount to every decision that is made, opposed to the previous approach that essentially existed to tick boxes on the school and curriculum’s behalf.

Additionally, the PYP and CfE are similar because they both encourage transdisciplinary learning so that students have aspects of relevant skills for them to take in the wider world, both in real-time and upon leaving school. This type of education can be seen in the CfE when teaching STEM subjects that encourage outside-of-school scenarios and learning. This is incredibly beneficial as it meets the principal ‘relevance‘ of CfE as it is a skill that transcends being exclusive to school learning.

Another similarity that IB and CfE share is their concentration on making the school environment a positive one through a shared ethos and community, another asset of their education that can translate to the outside society. Learning how to conduct yourself in school through your behaviour and interactions is a vital aspect of day-to-day learning and this is evidently recognised by both institutions. From my own experience, having a shared ethos within the school is incredibly beneficial to the pupils as they usually have a say on the contents of what is included in it, thus not only does this add responsibility to their actions but also pride as they realise their voice is heard and that they are accounted for.


However, as mentioned above, the CfE is not a direct copy of the PYP programme. From the videos provided from the PowerPoint, it is noticeable that whilst the IB focuses a lot on a wide array of results, the CfE has specific experiences and outcomes that the learning should be catered towards so that the subject has a reason for being taught. I believe this approach is better suited to Scottish schools as it allows for a certain level of learning to be met and so that lessons can have a reference of learning so that every class is relevant to the curriculum. Meanwhile. the PYP is better suited to individual achievement and how their learning improves the student’s overall education opposed to building on a specific subject’s foundation and meeting objectives. PYP appears to swear more towards linking all of the subjects together to have a base level of learning that is interconnected, more evidence of the transdisciplinary learning, rather than just being identified as a particular subject.



IB Reflective Task III

When the International Baccalaureate formed in the 1960s, it revolutionised a lot of the teaching styles that were presented in school. Not settling with the traditional make-up of the educational system to that point, it put across a new ‘Progressive’ brand of the curriculum that is still the foundation of teaching till this day. This style of forward-thinking aligns with a lot of what the CfE offers in Scotland.

It is evident that the IB was the catalyst for an increase in the importance of education in the decades that followed such a pivotal moment in human history at the conclusion of the second world war, or at least with the focus on learner education. As seen through the new focus of education trends, this was echoed within society with a changing reflection of meritocracy.

An example of these comparisons is the IB trend of ‘student choice’. This is similar to CfE’s principle of ‘personalisation and choice’ as both put large importance on students being able to choose their own journey through their schooling journey so that they can arrive at the outcome that they desire upon leaving. This is of particular importance as the previous system did not cater to branching out of a concrete curriculum and thus did not offer a varied programme for students to flourish at their desired outcome. This vague curriculum arguably extinguished unique talents and therefore killed passions that should be celebrated in school before they had even started. Additionally, giving the teacher a forum to receive feedback from their students increases their pool for delivering classes as it lets them fine-tune their lessons to increase retention of information and engagement, as well as getting the message across that pupil feedback is respected within the learning environment. Classes are a two-way system that depends on a working relationship between teacher and student so this mutual principle is very much at the heart of a progressive curriculum.

Another example of how these two systems share progressive traits is the importance of both being focused on learners. IB mentions ‘child-centred’ education, similar to CfE’s holistic approach. It is needless to say that school exists with the intention to get learners ready for the outside world. This is why their education and safety is indispensable and therefore the biggest focus to both IB and CfE-centred schools. This is evident through the experiences and outcomes that are the benchmark for pupils’ learning in Scotland so that all students have the same foundation of knowledge and allowing the teacher to know what the natural progression of teaching should be.

In conclusion, I believe it is very clear that the Curriculum for Excellence was designed with a lot of the IB’s educational trends in mind. Education should forever be about getting the correct information across to students. By working with them and allowing them to be the navigator to their own learning, they can explore their passions within the education system so that they can reach the destination that they desire to arrive at upon leaving school, be it employment or higher education.

IB Reflective Task II

*please note, video was deleted when I tried to access [as of 03/09/2019]*

It is fair to make comparisons between the IB’s learner profile attributes and CfE’s four capacities for learning. Both are there to build a foundation for learners to contribute to society upon leaving school and to help improve the communities that they find themselves in, both domestically and internationally. With this consideration and co-operation, society can move forward to attain new heights, therefore the utilisation of these developments is vital to our curriculum.

The immediate similarity that struck me was present in CfE’s details for ‘responsible citizens‘. This can be linked to many of the IB’s attributes — such as thinkersopen-minded and reflective — and puts emphasis on learners emphasising with outside parties that differ from their own thinking. This train of thought is an important aspect of everyday life that calls for people from different backgrounds and cultures to work together and reach a common goal. Additionally, the call for responsible citizens has never been larger as the world continues to bridge previous gaps through the advancement of technology and will only become more common in years to come. Therefore, it is imperative that this line of understanding is instilled in the minds of students so humanity can continue to grow off the back of their learning in the near future.

Another similarity between the two curriculums is the learner profile attribute of communicators with the capacity of effective contributor. Similar to the previous paragraph, communication is key to all aspects of life, irrespective of context. For society to run successfully, it is essential for the population to be on the same page as one another. As such, it important to teach pupils to express themselves in a way that allows them to be critical thinkers and take control of situations whilst accounting for the opinions of others. This brand of ‘outside of the box thinking’ also builds self-resilience and allows for individuals to bounce back from difficult situations and use the circumstances to learn in future. From my own experience, I learned that children have an initial struggle to overcome the realisation that they made a mistake and believe that they have failed, per-se, without recognising that failure is the key to success. I took pride in seeing the push that my mentor and the school put on normalising the act of making mistakes and believe this is reflected in the similarities between IB and CfE’s thinking.

Lastly, CfE’s capacity for successful learners is, naturally, a key component for all of education. Therefore, it exhibits the vast majority of learner profiles. Students must have a desire to learn to absorb knowledge. By using their interests and abilities to teach the curriculum to them, pupils are more likely to continue their learning outwith the school grounds and take an interest in the subjects that they are learning in their own time. This aligns with inquirers that helps usher in passion, motivation and enthusiasm for their own education.


It is worth noting that there are differences between the two approaches, however. The most glaring of which is that the Curriculum for Excellence is a lot more centred on the four capacities affecting Scotland than the rest of the world, at least initially. This is reflected under responsible citizens, calling for a bigger emphasis on Scotland’s place in the world and what we contribute to it, rather than the bigger picture being the international spectrum; differing from the IB’s approach of impacting local, national and international communities.

IB Reflective Task I

The International Baccalaureate (IB) is a foundation that has a lot of similarities with Scotland’s own Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) programme when it comes to the education of young learners. My most immediate take from their similarities is the importance that it places on readying students for life beyond school through their learnings, as well as planting the seed for growing their curiosity for how and why things are done the way they are. However, there is much more to this relationship than this link. Additional resemblances appear on the subject of general teachings, the relationship between student and teacher and the importance of the student’s education being the focal point of lessons.

As noted above, both the IB and CfE put high importance on creating an atmosphere where the student is curious about their learning and asking questions to improve their own understanding of what they are learning. This kind of teaching aligns with Bloom’s Taxonomy that puts emphasis on the child’s own cognitive abilities so that they can see the purpose of what they are doing and make connections with how it alters their everyday life. In regards to CfE, this is of large importance when factoring in one of the pillars of learning: Relevance. For a child to realise just how important what they are learning is to their understanding of the world, it proves a great hurdle for them to overcome when utilising outside of school, too.

An example from my own experience in school during placement that reflected this was when I was scheduled to teach the class topic of Australia. I took an approach during a particular lesson, based on Australian wildlife, by asking open questions to the classroom about why they thought the animals in Australia differed to those that we found at home in Scotland. Although I had used Bloom’s Taxonomy before, it was never in the manner of open-based questions and instantly realised why it is such a positive approach to teaching. The class essentially turned into an open forum for discussion without ever derailing the lesson or moving off-topic. The children were quite literally teaching themselves on the differences through their discussions and I found that most of the class wanted to offer their own perspective on the subject.