How should schools address the problem of curriculum overload?
von Dr. Susan Hanisch und Dr. Dustin Eirdosh, Max Planck Institut für evolutionäre Anthropology
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Humans are somewhat unique compared with other organisms, in that we produce, share, and accumulate massive amounts of information about the world around us. The 21st century has seen the expansion of this capacity for accumulating cultural information more than any other time in our history. Despite this trend, it is not clear how schools should change or adapt. In 2020, the Organization for Economic and Cooperative Development (OECD) released a report on the international state of education, finding that many schools around the world are facing the challenge of curriculum overload, policies and structures that require teachers and students to do too much in order to keep up with the (actual and perceived) demands of modern societies.
In short, schools seem to be not well prepared to help students navigate the flood of human knowledge within the “Information Age”. The impacts of this kind of curriculum overload are significant. First, teachers are impacted both in terms of their ability to engage in high quality teaching, and relatedly, in terms of their everyday well-being. These impacts on teachers spill over into impacts on student learning and wellbeing, which in turn, may provide serious constraints on evolving a sustainable global economy for all humans on the planet.
How can school communities solve these dilemmas between preparing German students for an increasingly complex, competitive, international world, and assuring the well-being of teachers and students? These tensions suggest that curriculum overload is a complex and deep challenge for economic development that requires the active participation of students and teachers.
OECD (2020), Curriculum Overload: A Way Forward, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://doi.org/10.1787/3081ceca-en. / https://www.oecd-ilibrary.org/sites/0ebc645c-en/index.html?itemId=/content/component/0ebc645c-en
Evolving Schools Regional Workshop: Curriculum Overload. https://openevo.eva.mpg.de/teachingbase/curriculum-overload/