The Education secretary said he wanted teachers to stop using innovative approaches for teaching which ‘dumbed down’ education.
Examples included “making Plasticine models to represent Hitler’s main aims as Fuhrer” and forcing children to learn about the popstar Tinie Tempah.
Instead he said teachers should focus simply on actively pass on knowledge, organised in academic disciplines such as Physics and History.
Mr Gove singled out “methods which have nothing to do with passing on knowledge” the remarks in a wide-ranging speech on “the importance of teaching” to the right of centre thinktank Policy Exchange.
He described how students in one school had been “studying the battle of Hastings by re-enacting it on a field with softballs, spending three lessons making castles out of cardboard boxes, making Plasticine models to represent Hitler’s main aims as Fuhrer and recreating life on a slave ship by making pupils gather under their desks”.
Mr Gove added: “Another teacher records a lesson for A-Level English students in which they were asked to depict literary characters on a paper plate – drawing a face on the plate – and then asked to use stickers to define the character’s principal traits – pinning the stickers on their clothes and mingling with other students, while they introduce themselves ‘in character’.
Mr Gove said: “Allied to these teaching methods which have nothing to do with passing on knowledge there has also been an emphasis on teachers having to put their own learning aside so that work is ‘relevant’ to the students.
“This has resulted in the dumbing of educational material down to the level of the child – with GCSE English papers that ask students about Tinie Tempah, or Simon Cowell – rather than encouraging the child to thirst after the knowledge of the teacher.”
Mr Gove said that he wanted schools “to move away from these approaches to education … towards an education system which believes, right from the early years, in The Importance of Teaching.
“Because schools are – above all – academic institutions, we need teachers to actively pass on knowledge, organised in academic disciplines such as Physics and History – to introduce children to precisely those areas of human thought and achievement which they are most unlikely to discover or understand on their own.”
Part of the problem was a “belief that education should not be an activity in which the teacher imparts knowledge to the child but a pursuit – by the child – of what it finds interesting”, he said.