Saturday, November 21, 2009

Core subjects versus Option

In most schools in New Zealand, timetables are done in such a way that there are “core subjects” e.g. Maths, sciences, english etc and “option subjects” e.g. Languages, cooking, woodwork etc…

In most students’ minds and, unfortunately, most teachers’ minds, core subjects are seen as very important and option subjects are seen as unimportant, invaluable subjects where one can mack around and where work is optional.

Last week, I went to a NZALT meeting and we started to speak about the fact that, as language teachers, we do not like that senior managements speak about Core subjects versus option subjects. We thought it is time to find another word than “option”. As the meeting ended we were not able to find a right word.

I know that changing a word would not obligatory change people’s set of mind but I reckon it would help. I was speaking with a teacher from a respected private school and he said he has the same problem with his pupils not willing to do any work as his subject (French) is seen as optional, which means for the students that no work is required.

When I was at school, option had another meaning. And as I am not that old, one can not say that the word has evolved ! Latin was for example an option. An option was then available only to people who could intellectually follow such a course. An option was a subject quite elitist that not everybody could chose. Although French in NZ is still very elitist, the subject does not seem to be seen as an important subject.

I would love to see teachers to change their view on optional subjects and realise that option teachers teach a lot to the students, like literacy.

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