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Education for Spiritual, Moral, Social and Cultural Development

Education for Spiritual, Moral, Social and Cultural DevelopmentThe much-quoted second paragraph of the 1988 Education Act asserts that the school curriculum should be one that is a balanced and broadly-based curriculum which - (a) promotes the spiritual, moral, cultural, mental and physical develop-ment of pupils and of society; and (b) prepares such pupils for the opportunities, responsibilities and experiences of adult life. This statement stresses the education of the whole person, rather than merely the cognitive domain which we associate with 'book learning', 'school work' and so on. It identifies four other domains - the physical, moral, spiritual and cultural - which schools must develop if they are fully to discharge their obligations under the Act, and it asserts that pupils should not merely be 'educated' in the conventional sense of acquiring 'book learning', passing examinations and acquiring certificates. They should be prepared for what will confront them as the 'opportunities, responsibilities and experiences of adult life'. While the desirability of such an aim is difficult to dispute, what it might mean in practice is less easy to say. As adults, we know that adult life includes many opportunities including opportunities to apply for jobs (but not necessarily get them); to enter marriage (but also opportunities to leave marriage); to fall in love (more than once, but also to fall out of love, even to fall into hate with another person); to participate in the electoral and judicial systems of our society (to stand for election, to serve on a jury); to seek ownership of property and the accumulation of wealth (but also opportunities to swindle, defraud and misappropriate property and wealth); to serve the community (but also to undermine the community through antisocial behaviour); to help those less fortunate than ourselves (but also opportunities to dominate and exploit them).