An Aims-based Curriculum

The significance of human flourishing for schools

Paperback / softback, 82 pages, 240 mm x 169 mm
15 Feb 2013
Institute of Education Press

Price: £14.99

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At present a revision of the English National Curriculum is in progress. As in many other countries across the globe, it is constructed around a number of largely academic school subjects.

An Aims-based Curriculum spells out a ground-breaking alternative. Its starting point is not subjects, but what schools should be for. It argues that aims are not to be seen as high-sounding principles that can be easily ignored: they are the lifeblood of everything a school does.

Michael Reiss and John White show this by beginning with overarching aims that will equip each learner to lead a personally fulfilling life and help others do so too. From these, they derive more specific aims covering the personal qualities, skills, and understanding needed for a life of personal, civic, and vocational well-being.

The second half of the book, on political realities of implementation, takes this process of deriving aims further. Some of its detailed aims, but by no means all, overlap with conventional curriculum objectives. It also looks at the role of the state in curriculum decisions, as well as the implications of the book’s central argument for student choice, school ethos, assessment, inspection, and teacher education.

  • Michael Reiss

    Institute of Education

  • John White

    Institute of Education

About the author ix

Introduction 1
Part 1: Deriving the aims 3

Section A: A first mapping 5
Equipping every child to lead a personally flourishing life 5
The flourishing life itself 5
Basic needs 6
Personal qualities 6
Equipping every child to help others to lead a personally fulfilling life 7
Moral education 7
Education for citizenship 7
Education for work 8
Links between the aims 8
Broad background understanding 9
The next step 10

Section B: Making the aims more determinate 11

This exciting book gets right to the heart of the international debate on the curriculum ... This book should be required reading for any teacher about to review a school curriculum, or any government about to review a national curriculum.

Brian Male, Director, The Curriculum Foundation

... Michael Reiss and John White tackle the most important, but surprisingly the most neglected, question about the curriculum: not “what should we teach?” but “why should we teach?”. What are the aims of education, what are we trying to achieve and how should we set about it? Their answers are imaginative and at the same time grounded in a deep understanding of both the philosophy and the practice of education: anyone interested in where education is going in the 21st Century should read this thought-provoking book.

Anthony Tomei, former director of the Nuffield Foundation

This book is a very welcome challenge to the radical changes which are currently being imposed upon schools. Starting with a detailed account of the meaning and aims of education, it continues logically and impressively to demonstrate the implications for all young people, whatever their abilities and background.

Professor Richard Pring,