CSG: Reorganizing the standard curriculum requires huge adjustments on the part of both students and teachers. How are they handling it so far?
WS: All 25 teachers have been working on this project for the past two years, and they have made a commitment to see it through. In the past, school development has always focused on structure, and now there is more emphasis on content, which poses real challenges for teachers. You can’t just rely on the textbook anymore – you have to pull together material from different textbooks, be open to peer learning and including extracurricular learning opportunities, and so on. It takes a lot of effort and courage to depart from the traditional 45-minute lesson blocks and do things differently, but it brings a whole new perspective. We’re rediscovering how versatile teaching can be.
Students appreciate being able to devote more time to a single topic, which gives them more space and time to learn. They prefer to spend three or four hours on the same subject, rather than having to shift their focus to something different seven times a day.
“It takes a lot of effort and courage to depart from the traditional 45-minute lesson blocks and do things differently, but it brings a whole new perspective.”
CSG: Why are thematic areas better able to prepare students to meet the challenges of the 21st century?
WS: For one thing, there’s the digital aspect; media studies and computer science are integrated into every ‘learning field.’ Computers are used not only in a special class, but for conducting research, watching and making films, presentations, and data management. The idea is to use the computer as a practical tool. Students learn that it’s not just for specific activities, such as gaming, but an essential part of everyday life.
If I ask students to find information, they have to be able to go online and search for relevant material and then determine whether the material and sources they find are reliable or not. It’s about learning by doing, something students will need to be able to do when they enter the workforce.
Our goal is to give students the tools they need to deal with complex topics. They need to learn how to take a topic apart and put it back together, gaining a better understanding of the subject. This approach teaches students to think in terms of the connections between different areas – a skill they will need throughout their lives.