Perspectives on subject choice: the case for a humane liberalism in curriculum planning
The degree to which students in schools should be free to choose subjects and courses has long been a matter of debate. In England and Wales, for example, a period of constriction in subject choice at 14 following the introduction of the National Curriculum has now been succeeded by a return to greater choice from 1995. Much of the literature has discussed the degree to which students exercise individual freedom in their choices, as opposed to the degree to which their choices are constrained by external factors. The outcome of such discussion remains unclear because different conclusions are reached by virtue of the adoption of different research paradigms and the differing value systems of the researchers. We are left, therefore, not with a solution to the problem of freedom of choice, but with a series of different perspectives on the processes. These perspectives are all useful in operational terms in that they allow school and college managers to develop and refine their curriculum and guidance systems. However, the fundamental issue in terms of curriculum planning concerns the relative account to be taken of the perspectives of student, parent and teacher. It is argued that no one perspective must be allowed to monopolize, but that if it is an aim of education to develop citizens who are capable of making responsible choices for themselves, this has certain implications for the management of both curriculum and guidance.