The curriculum of social science issues should abide by the requirements of the National Curriculum Standards, and the design and implementation of SSI-L projects should be based on a deep understanding of the curriculum standards. Therefore, the SSI-L project team specially invited Gao Zhenfen, a faculty member of the Geography Teaching and Research Section of the Basic Education Teaching and Research Center, Beijing Academy of Educational Sciences, and a member of the National Geographic Curriculum Standards Group, to share his own understanding of the new geographic curriculum standards. This cloud salon was held from 19:30 to 20:40 on March 3, 2021 in TencentMeeting. The following is what Mr. Gao has shared for your reference:
Mr. Gao introduced, it has been more than three years since the introduction of Geographic Curriculum Standards in 2017. During this period of teaching and research, he himself has got some insights and experience in understanding and practicing these standards both at the macro level and micro level. But considering that teachers in the project team are specialised in different subjects, this lecture would mainly focus on introducing the process of developing and utilising the standards.
I. The 2017 version of curriculum schme and the revision background of the 2020 geographic curriculum standards.
The revision of the curriculum standards was conducted according to a series of policy documents and the need for strengthening morality education. Since the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, the State Council and the Ministry of Education have issued a series of new documents about education reform, based on which, the Ministry of Education in 2017 published the new curriculum standards. In 2019, the State Council released new guidance documents for basic education, specifying its requirements in terms of training standards, training methods, evaluation standards, examinations, qualification of teacher, etc. In this context, the curriculum standards were revised in 2020.
II. The basic information of the revised new curriculum standards
The revision of curriculum standards this time reflects the needs of the new era, stressing the fundamentality, diversity, and selectivity of the curriculum. It reduces the difficulty and credits of compulsory courses, and increases the difficulty and credits of optional courses, leaving more space for students to make the choice. 1) Based on “disciplinary core literacy”, we should transit from “imparting knowledge” to “cultivating people”, to realize the fundamental task of “strengthening moral education” (student-centered). 2) We should teach students according to their aptitude, and transit from offering “uniform courses for all” to “optional courses for different students”, to assure students all starts from a common ground but achieve differentiated development. 3) We should change the learning motivation system, and transit from “putting external pressure on students” to “activating their intrinsic motivation”, enabling students to learn by themselves (students-oriented, active learning). 4) We should promote teaching reform, run different schools, re-deconstruct the subjects, then structurize them with big ideas, solve the real problems from the perspective of students, and transit from focusing on “knowledge points” to “core literacy”, to really develop students’ key competencies.
In this modern age of information explosion, knowledge alone can no longer show the learning outcomes of students. Their achievements manifest more in a series of concepts, habits, abilities, methods, perseverance and others that formed in the process of knowledge learning. Literacy for the 21st century is divided into three categories, learning and innovation ability, digital literacy, vocational and living skills. Among them, core literacy includes sound values, essential character and morals, and key abilities. The core literacy of students is divided into disciplinary core literacy and interdisciplinary core literacy. The curriculum structure in the curriculum standards uses the “disciplinary core literacy” as the outline.
This revision incorporates the academic quality standards into the curriculum standards. The academic quality standards show the expected outcomes of cultivating core literacy and make it clear about the requirements for teaching and evaluation work. The curriculum standards on the other hand give a systematic explanation about the requirements of core literacy goals and cultivating process of education, teaching, and talent training. So the academic quality standards and curriculum standards are intrinsically consistent, allowing students to use the knowledge and methods acquired from subject learning in their future life. By core literacy, we cultivate talents and realized the fundamental task of “strengthening moral education”. Therefore, when teachers evaluate whether their teaching content and process meet the requirements of the curriculum standards, they can refer to either the academic quality standards or the requirements of curriculum standards for student development. Besides, the level differentiation of geographical core literacy also manifests in the standards of academic proficiency tests and college entrance examinations.
III. Insights and experience of Beijing senior high schools’ curriculum teaching reform based on curriculum standards
Mr. Gao used two cases to present the practice of Beijing senior high schools’ curriculum teaching reform. In one case, students learn to draw the orbital map of planets in the solar system, the distribution map of water system in nature, etc. During this process, they also grasp some geographic knowledge and get to understand the geographical process. In the other case, students from Capital Normal University High School combine the geographical elements into the study of poems in Chinese class, showing proficient ability in integrating interdisciplinary knowledge.
After the lecture, the participating teachers had an in-depth discussion with Mr. Gao in terms of discipline, curriculum standards, and other relevant issues.
Lin Jing, the professor from Beijing Normal University, invited Mr. Gao to further explain the meaning of core literacy of Geography in high school. Mr. Gao stressed, there’s a constructive relationship between each literacy, in which, the geographical practice is the foundation, comprehensive/synthetic thinking and regional perception is the process, and the ultimate goal is to achieve the view of a harmonious man-land relationship. Ms. Lin questioned, considering the higher requirements for abstract and systematic thinking in Geography, are there any essential differences between high school Geography and middle school Geography in the core literacy requirements for students? In response to her question, Mr. Gao said, there is no essential difference between the two. The knowledge of Geography mainly comes from life, so students can usually complete their learning task by using their life experience, and get a generally good performance. But it’s indeed very challenging to get higher scores. Regarding the question from Peng Menghua about how the position of Geography will change in college entrance exam’s subject selection, Mr. Gao replied, the selection rate of Geography in college entrance exam is relatively high compared to other subjects. In Beijing, Geography is among the top 3 subjects being chosen. Field investigation also finds that many students take Geography as the alternative subject to choose.
In the end, Ms. Lin Jing concluded as followed: first of all, Mr. Gao’s introduction of high school Geography Curriculum Standards gives us an outline and links to his teaching practice and research work. We really benefit a lot from it. Secondly, Geography is a comprehensive discipline combining both literature and science, so it needs students to think from an interdisciplinary perspective. Learning in this way, students can better develop high-order and complicated thinking, which is good for the integration of their knowledge system and the advancement of their core literacy. Thirdly, our society will develop at a faster pace in the future. In the blueprint of national sustainable development, education reform is targeted at developing students’ core literacy and enhancing their ability to lead a happy life. Our teachers in the project team also need to keep improving and equipping ourselves in the research and practice of social science issues.