Go With Me On This… Episode 1: Curriculum - Knowledge vs Skills

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April 1st saw the launch of @GoWithMeOnThis a fun, new debate-style podcast where hosts Ndidi Okezie and Laura McInerney take turns to make a case for a ‘crazy’ idea about education. The show aims to have conversations about critical topics in education in a manner that allows a broader community of people to engage. 

In this blog post, Ndidi Okezie shares her thoughts with us about the first podcast. 

"We kicked off the show with a discussion on curriculum and the very topical 'Knowledge vs Skills' debate. To say this topic hit a nerve with people is an understatement. The listener engagement began immediately, and it’s clear that this is an issue that people feel strongly about.

I entered the discussion, open to Laura’s idea that 'Knowledge should be the single biggest priority in a School’s Curriculum' - but I was also open to the view that there should be an explicit focus on an intentional development of skills. Our two guest hosts Oli De Botton, and Lewis Iwu made extremely compelling arguments for skills, and I often found myself swaying and seeing things from their perspective.

As the discussion progressed, it became clear to me that we were all saying similar things. Perhaps none of us truly represent the more hardcore proponents on each side of this debate, but the idea of 'balance' repeatedly came up; which led me to think that, what we’re really talking about here is the sequencing of how you teach knowledge and skills rather than a choice between the importance of one over the other?

Twitter debate

Last Thursday, as a follow up to the episode release, we held a Twitter Debate with Ambition Institute's Matt Hood. After listening to the show, Matt had taken issue with my suggestion that “balance” was the solution; due to the 'opportunity cost' that particular approach could potentially create for children. This issue of ‘time” was discussed on the podcast.

Many schools do not have (what they see as) the luxury of time, to focus on skills. Not when they are dealing with significant gaps in knowledge that they have to prioritise addressing. That challenge hits close to home from my teaching experience and therefore it is a constraint that I readily recognise. The question is, whether teaching 'skills' is indeed simply an optional 'extra' or whether when done correctly, it powerfully reinforces the more 'academic' knowledge elements of the curriculum.

Although it may frustrate some, this does bring me back to balance! I still struggle to imagine an effective school that would simply drill knowledge and not integrate the development of skills alongside it.

I’m sure this debate isn’t going anywhere soon, but I would hope that 'what all pupils need for their future' remains at the heart of our discussions. I choose to believe that we can all agree that keeping their needs paramount, is still the best way to approach any Curriculum design.  

Charting high

We’ve had a great launch to the show. Thank you for the engagement and overwhelmingly warm reception to it. In week 1 we hit the 'New and Noteworthy' section of iTunes and trended up to No 3 on the Education charts. All absolutely incredible.

If you haven’t yet heard the show (or told at least five of your friends about it) please make sure you do and join in the conversation! We’ll be releasing episode 2 on April 15th, so subscribe now and be ready to share your views on Parental Engagement. I have a strong feeling that topic is going to generate a lot of conversation and many insights."

Ndidi Okezie

Director of Digital and Customer Voice - Pearson


Want to hear more and have your say?

Subscribe to @GoWithMeOnThis - using the following links: (or anywhere you listen to podcasts)