London, Mar 21 : Kids need to be taught 'life skills' instead of key historical dates such as the Battle of Hastings, say the Association of Teachers and Lecturers.
According to the association, many kids are spending too much time 'rote learning', and suggested that a new curriculum should place greater emphasis on broad skills such as independent working, research and teamwork.
Speaking at the union's annual conference, Mary Bousted, general secretary, also said that excessive school tests were making children mentally ill and she has called for wholesale changes to the way children are taught and assessed, giving teachers more control over the curriculum.
"Is the world going to collapse if they don't know 'To Be, or Not to Be?' Our national curriculum should be far more focused on the development of life skills and ways of working than whether or not we teach the Battle of Hastings," The Telegraph quoted Bousted, as saying.
"The skills of historical understanding are far more important than whether or not we teach a particular battle."
Bousted insisted that children are being turned off learning by facts, figures and dates.
She claimed that it is more important for pupils to learn how to find knowledge and assess it for bias and accuracy than to memorise facts.
"A skills-based curriculum demands that you make connections between different subject domains," she said.
"That requires thought. Too much learning that goes on today is rote learning. That is not what is needed in the 21st century," she added.
Bousted said the Government should go further, creating a skills-based curriculum like the one in Sweden.
She also criticised the existing system of national exams in the UK, where kids are tested in the basics at seven, 11 and 14.
"Children suffer stress and anxiety as the test looms and the rise in children's mental health problems cannot be divorced from their status as the most tested in the world," she said.
"The tests label young people as failures, and this leads to one of the lowest rates for staying on post-16 of any industrialised country," she added.
Ministers want to dump so-called 'SATs' and set up a new system in which students are entered for less pressurised tests when teachers think they are ready.
The kids could be forced to sit tests in English and mathematics up to twice a year under the new system.
But Bousted warned that this could make the situation worse.
"Much as I would welcome the end of our current testing system, I have to tell you that I fear there are as many problems with single level tests as there are with Sats," she said.
"The Government must be commended for looking for alternatives to the current arrangements, but we have to be absolutely on guard that what does replace Sats does not make things worse," she added.