The concept of curriculum


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by Favour Biodun Inyere, VTE, University of Nigeria.

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The concept of curriculum

  1. 1. 1 THE CONCEPT OF CURRICULUM INYERE, Biodun Favour, VTE (Computer Education) INTRODUCTION On the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), Goal 2 (Achieve universal primary education ~ Ensure that all boys and girls complete a full course of primary schooling) is one target yet to be met with 2010 report, stating that nearly nine out of ten children are now enrolled in school and rapid improvement in youth literacy. This milestone can be attributed to the curriculum. It is not uncommon to note that the vehicle of MDGs is education, which revolves around the curriculum. The differences in the world can be distinguishingly differentiated by the curriculum. If Nigeria wants to be among the top twenty countries in the year twenty-twenty, then her curriculum should be the best in the world, now. The different world powers are dynamic based curriculum, as the news of development today is a by-product on the curriculum, as established in civilised modernisation and enshrined as the constitution of a global village. What is Curriculum Vitae (CV)? This question seems too casual for an introduction, but it highlights the basic concept of definition. The curriculum {every course of (trans-) formative experience, which includes both undirected and out of school} of (a) life, not just those threads of experience that are planned and happen as a part of program within schools. It is like a profile of curriculum. In The Curriculum, the first textbook published on the subject, in 1918, John Franklin Bobbitt said that curriculum, as an idea, has its roots in the Latin word for race- course, explaining the curriculum as the course of deeds and experiences through which children become the adults they should be, for success in adult society. Furthermore, the curriculum encompasses the entire scope of formative deed and experience occurring in and out of school, and not only experiences occurring in school; experiences that are unplanned and undirected, and experiences intentionally directed for the purposeful formation of adult members of society. Hence, he defined the curriculum as an ideal, rather than as the concrete reality of the deeds and experiences that form people to who and what they are. As an idea, curriculum came from the Latin word "Currere" which means to run/to proceed, referring to the course of deeds and experiences through which children grow to become mature adults. A curriculum is prescriptive, and is based on a more general syllabus which merely specifies what topics must be understood and to what level to achieve a particular grade or standard. From society to society, and from primordial times to the present millennium, human beings have always passed on the knowledge, culture and traditions of their age to the younger ones for two purposes: one, to enable the young ones integrate into the society and two, to ensure the continuity and survival of human society.
  2. 2. 2 What is transmitted, however changes from time to time because society is dynamic. Man has progressed from a mere fruit gatherer, to a highly successful mechanised farmer growing his own fruits; he has progressed from rubbing two stones together to make fire and light, to producing electricity at thermal stations where fire burns at several thousands of centigrade degrees! Man has done all this by educating his young ones. Nowadays, the task of integrating the young ones into the society, which begins from home, is given mainly to schools, where professional teachers expose learners to various learning experiences or existing body of knowledge possessed by the society. In Nigeria, the education of the younger ones has passed through three distinct stages; namely: the pre-colonial, colonial and post-colonial periods respectively. This means that curriculum, what the learners and teachers do in school, has changed and changing according to the dynamic needs of the society at any particular time. History of Curriculum Development in Nigeria During the colonial years and because of the focus of colonialists to produce catechists and letter writers, what was taught in Nigerian schools were narrow subjects, consisting mainly of Reading ‗Righting and ‗Rithmetic (The 3 Rs). Today, the curriculum is wider and more related to the needs of Nigeria in an age of science and technology. The National Policy on Education (1981) is the most prominent official document produced by Nigerians for the education of the young. The policy is the blueprint for all educational activities organised for learners under the auspices of the school. It is the policy that specifies the 6-3-3-4 educational system, premised upon a pragmatic and liberal approach to educating learners. The objective is to equip all recipients of education at all levels with the necessary tools for living in a modern world. Without a curriculum plan, education would be a haphazard and wasteful venture. For example, before the National Policy on Education was finally introduced, there had been several commissions and committees on Nigerian Education. The most comprehensive and indigenous of all such efforts, however, was the national curriculum conference, which took place in September, 1969. In the conference, Nigerians, government officials, educationists and curriculum experts – etc. all gathered to decide what type of educational programme (or curriculum) Nigeria should give to her schools for educating the learners. Every other thing being done in Nigerian Education from then on is based on the policy, (or Blueprint for Nigerian education), which is only being revised from time to time to accommodate fresh ideas emanating from its implementation. DEFINITION OF CURRICULUM What is curriculum? According to Merriam-Webster Dictionary (n.d.), curriculum is defined as the following: the courses offered by an educational institution, a set of courses constituting an area of specialization, Latin: Running course, Scotland 1603: Carriage way, road, United States 1906: Course of study and in 1940: Plan for learning (study)
  3. 3. 3 Curriculum from Wikipedia, the free encyclopaedia: In formal education, a curriculum (/kəˈrɪkjʉləm/; plural: curricula /kəˈrɪkjʉlə/ or curriculums) is the planned interaction of pupils with instructional content, materials, resources, and processes for evaluating the attainment of educational objectives. Other definitions combine various elements to describe curriculum as follows:  All the learning which is planned and guided by the school, whether it is carried on in groups or individually, inside or outside the school. (John Kerr)  Outlines the skills, performances, attitudes, and values pupils are expected to learn from schooling. It includes statements of desired pupil outcomes, descriptions of materials, and the planned sequence that will be used to help pupils attain the outcomes.  The total learning experience provided by a school. It includes the content of courses (the syllabus), the methods employed (strategies), and other aspects, like norms and values, which relate to the way the school is organized.  The aggregate of courses of study given in a learning environment. The courses are arranged in a sequence (known to unknown) to make learning a subject easier.  In schools, a curriculum spans several grades. Curriculum can refer to the entire program provided by a classroom, school, district, state, or country. A classroom is assigned sections of the curriculum as defined by the school. For example, a fourth grade class teaches the part of the school curriculum that has been designed as developmentally appropriate for students, who are approximately nine years of age. Curriculum has numerous definitions, which can be slightly confusing. In its broadest sense a curriculum may refer to all courses offered at a school. This is particularly true of schools at the university level, where the diversity of a curriculum might be an attractive point to a potential student. A curriculum may also refer to a defined and prescribed course of studies, which students must fulfil in order to pass a certain level of education. For example, an elementary school might discuss how its curriculum, or its entire sum of lessons and teachings, is designed to improve national testing scores or help students learn the basics. An individual teacher might also refer to his or her curriculum, meaning all the subjects that will be taught during a school year. On the other hand, a university might refer to a curriculum as the courses required in order receiving one‘s diploma. They might also refer to curriculum in exactly the same way as the elementary school, and use curriculum to mean both individual courses needed to pass, and the overall offering of courses, which help prepare a student for life after school. Curriculum means two things: (i) the range of courses from which students choose what subject matters to study, and (ii) a specific learning program. In the latter case, the curriculum collectively describes the teaching, learning, and assessment materials available for a given course of study. Currently, a spiral curriculum is promoted as allowing students to revisit a subject matter's content at the different levels of development of the subject matter being studied. The constructivist
  4. 4. 4 approach, of the tycoil curriculum, proposes that children learn best via active engagement with the educational environment, i.e. discovery learning. Curriculum is all planned learning for which the school is responsible. i.e. Curriculum is all the experiences learners have under the guidance of the school, according to John Delnay. Rugg, 1936 states that ―The curriculum is really the entire programme of the schools' work. It is the essential means of education. It is everything that the students and their teachers do. Thus, it is two-fold in nature, being made up of activities, the things done, and of the materials with which they are done‖. Schools exist in society for the main purpose of transmitting existing knowledge, culture and traditions of the society to her learners. This is necessary in order to ensure the continuity of that society. From time to time however, members or society are concerned with what the schools are for and what must be taught in the school. Thus, members of the society do come together to take decisions on what schools teach to the learners. The totality of the learning experience in schools is what is called ―curriculum‖. MEANING OF CURRICULUM In the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN) course content, the word ―curriculum‖ comes from the Latin word ―currere‖, which means: ―to run or to run a course‖. That is, a course of study, which contains a body of subject matter approved for teaching by society in schools. However, as said earlier, different experts view ―curriculum‖ from perspectives other that the ―course of study‖ definitions. Here are some of them; Curriculum is a ―structured series of learning outcomes‖. It therefore tries to see curriculum as an ―input‖ which results in a certain ―output‖. Another definition says: Curriculum is ―an organized set of formal educational or training intentions‖. The emphasis of this view is clearly seen, from the ―input‖ perspectives. In other words, what the school teaches or intends to teach is organized according to some set rules. For example, there is a principle which says that what is known should be taught first before proceeding to what is not known. Another example is the principle that what is simple should be taught first before teaching complex material. A pupil must learn first by counting concrete objects such as bottle tops- adding and subtracting them, before extrapolating to abstractions and more complex mathematical problems. Curriculum is a ―deliberate, systematic and planned attempt undertaken by the school to modify or change the behaviours of the citizens of a particular society‖. This view appears to be more elaborate in explaining the term ―curriculum‖ than the others. Although the input-output paradigm is subsumed in this definition it is clear that what the school teaches must be deliberately planned and arranged in a particular way to bring about the desired outcome of changing the citizen‘s behaviour. From the foregoing, it is clear that there is a programme which schools must run in order to properly educate the citizens. It is therefore a plan, a statement of purpose with a specification of content and methods, inbuilt with the capacity for evaluation to know whether the purpose has been achieved or not. This programme which the schools must follow or use has been carefully divided into three namely:
  5. 5. 5 i. Programme of studies – the subjects which must be taught in schools. ii. Programme of activities – planned and organized out-of-classroom teaching activities which help the learners to neither grow nor mature but are not formal as in classroom teaching setting. Examples include getting students to join various clubs and societies in the schools. Through these, students learn through the process of socialization, because it is less formally strutted. iii. Programme of Guidance – a programme of care for the well-being of the learner. In this programme, professionally – trained helpers are employed to assist the learners achieving self-understanding and self-direction necessary for adjustment to school, home and the larger environment. In specific terms, the counsellors assist learners in three major areas: educational, vocational and persona-social. In educational areas, counsellors help learners to take decisions on the right choice of educational area, counsellors assist learners to take decisions on the right choice of vocation or careers. In the persona-social area, counsellors assist learners in handling emotional and psychological problems which may affect their behaviours adversely or prevent them from learning in schools. In summary, the term ―curriculum‖ may be said to be a total package of what schools do to make learners become what society expects them to become, namely good citizens, who are not only able to understand or learn certain school subjects, but fully integrated individuals that are able to fit into society and contribute their own quota as well, to the progress of that society. The word ―curriculum‖ must be fully understood by educationists so as to avoid confusion which in turn will affect what goes on in schools. Curriculum must be understood from the totality of programmes or learning experiences organized for learners under the auspices of the schools. Thus, the term curriculum must not be restricted to syllabus, scheme of work or other related terms. These basic concepts must be understood for meaningful implementation of the school curriculum. -NOUN, EDU703: Curriculum Development: Theory & Practice. It is in a curriculum that is accumulated knowledge, skills and attitudes about the past and present are combined with predictive assumptions about the future to produce an ordered outline of things to be taught and learnt in schooling, as stated by Connell, W. F. Thus curriculum can be viewed as a field of study. It is made up of its foundations (philosophical, historical, psychological, and social foundations); domains of knowledge as well as its research theories and principles. In the early years of 20th century, the traditional concepts held of the curriculum is that it is a body of subjects or subject matter prepared by the teachers for the students to learn. “ A Curriculum is a written document which may contain many ingredients, but basically it is a plan for the education of pupils during their enrollment in given school”. -George A. Beauchamp. Marsh and Willis on the other hand view curriculum as all the ―experiences in the classroom which are planned and enacted by the teacher, and also learned by the students. Curriculum refers to the training assigned to a student. Caswell and Campbell viewed curriculum as ―all experiences children have under the guidance
  6. 6. 6 of teachers‖. This definition is shared by Smith, Stanley and Shores when they defined ―curriculum as a sequence of potential experiences set up in the schools for the purpose of disciplining children and youth in group ways of thinking and acting‖. Curriculum is a design plan for learning that requires the purposeful and proactive organization, sequencing, and management of the interactions among the teacher, the students, and the content knowledge, we want students to acquire i.e. anything and everything that teaches a lesson, planned or otherwise. Humans are born learning, thus the learned curriculum actually encompasses a combination of all. Many educators are unaware of the strong lessons imparted to youth by everyday contacts. Curriculum is a dynamic intellectual and social enterprise. The dynamic nature of human societies justifies regular innovations. Grace C. Offorma states that ―Curriculum can be viewed as the organised knowledge presented to learners in a school‖. Weather it is that which is taught at school, set of subjects, content, sequence of courses, set of performance objectives, program of studies, set of materials, course of study; I define curriculum as the process of gaining experience, systematically. CONCEPT OF CURRICULUM There are many definitions of curriculum. Because of this, the concept of curriculum is sometimes characterized as fragmentary, elusive and confusing. The definitions are influenced by modes of thoughts (Models), pedagogies, political, cultural, as well as other experiences. The concept of curriculum is as dynamic as the changes that occur in society: In its narrow sense, curriculum is viewed merely as a listing of subject to be taught in school; while in a broader sense, it refers to the total learning experiences of individuals not only in schools, but in society as well. To accommodate difference of view, Hamid Hasan (1988) telling that curriculum concept can be evaluated in four dimension, that is 1. Curriculum as an idea; yielded pass or through research and theory's, specially in the field of education and curriculum 2. Curriculum as plan written, as materialization of curriculum as an idea; what in it load about target, materials, activity, appliances, and time 3. Curriculum as an activity, representing execution of curriculum as a plan written; in the form of study practice 4. Curriculum as a result of representing consequence of curriculum as an activity, in the form of got of curriculum target namely reaching of change of certain ability or behavior from all educative participants. Curriculum: Curriculum is a focus of study, consisting of various courses all designed to reach a particular proficiency or qualification. A curriculum can consist of more than one course. Curriculum refers to the training assigned to a student. Curriculum is a focus of study, consisting of various courses all designed to reach a particular proficiency or qualification. Other related terms are elaborated as follows:
  7. 7. 7 Syllabus: Obi C. says that the course syllabus include such items as the standard of attainment required on entry and at the end of the course, textbooks, test or examinations and any other general items connected with giving both the teachers and students a fairly comprehensive picture of what will be required; while the examination syllabus gives in very general terms the intended course coverage at the various levels. A syllabus is simply an outline and timeline of a particular course. It will typically give a brief overview of the course objectives, course expectations, list reading assignments, homework deadlines, and exam dates. Most often people tend to equate the word ―syllabus‖ with Curriculum‖. This should not be so. As can be understood from explanations already given, curriculum is wider in scope than ―syllabus‖. A syllabus is part of a curriculum but it is not the Curriculum. Syllabus is the content of the school subjects offered in the school, and it is a sub-set of the curriculum. A syllabus normally contains what students will learn in the various school subjects in a year or for a longer period of schooling leading to certification. It is a long term plan of work for students. It is normally prepared by the classroom teachers, but also by a body such as West African Examination Council (WAEC) or the National Examination Council (NECO). At the university level, the National Universities Commission (NUC) presents syllabi to all Nigerian universities. Scheme of Work: Obi C. states that the expansion of the syllabus, giving an indication of the order in which the subject topics will be dealt with, the division of content into weekly, monthly or terminal periods is the scheme of work. Again, the curriculum of a school is not the scheme of work. As the name implies, a scheme of work is a breakdown of the contents of what student are expected to learn in a given period. In other words, a scheme of work is the systematic arrangement of subject matter and activities within a given time period, such as a term or a semester. Whatever the learners are expected to learn are broken down into instructional units including activities and are normally prepared by the classroom teacher. It is usually a guide in planning what is to be done per week over a term or semester and for the three terms or two semesters in an academic year as the case may be. Course of Study: A course is a set of inventory items grouped together for ease of assignment and tracking. A course of study is an educational programme leading to the award of a certificate at the end of the programme for a particular set of learners. A course of study therefore refers mainly to a programme of learning that are offered to students – with various course contents – at the end of which they are awarded a certificate indicating the type of course of study they had undergone. Lesson Note/Plan: Brief notes of how te teacher intends to go about the classroom instruction is a lesson paln; while lesson note on the other hand are detailed notes of lesson to be given by a teacher according to Obi C. Note of lesson/lesson plan is a guide for teachers to assist them in the orderly presentation of a lesson to the learners in order to facilitate learning. Teachers draw the plan for teaching a particular lesson from the scheme of work. That is, just as the scheme of work is a breakdown of the syllabus, so the lesson note is a breakdown of the scheme of work into daily lessons, which are planned by the teacher. In this plan, the teacher explains the step by step procedure which he/she would follow in presenting the
  8. 8. 8 lesson to the learners. It usually contains the activities expected of the students as well as the teachers during the period of the lesson. The lesson note/plan is therefore not ―curriculum‖. The classroom is the implementation point of the programme of learning, which is just one of the major components of the curriculum. Thus, the lesson note is an important aspect of curriculum implementation, especially the programme of learning component of the curriculum. Teaching and Instruction: An academic process by which students are motivated to learn in ways that make a sustained, substantial, and positive influence on how they think, act, and feel. Instructions are a basic aspect of the learning process. They are all formulated to guide students in their gradual learning process in their respective fields. According to Obi Chiaka, apart from the primary duty of instructing, the teacher is expected to enable the learners develop attitudes and the effective teacher becomes a role model for his learners. And this is exemplary with her, as my Lecturer and model to many. Curriculum is literally defined in education as a set of courses regarding different classes or subjects offered in different educational institutions such as a school. Essentially, the curriculum should contain four main components or elements: the objectives or purpose, the content or subject-matter, the method or ways of passing on knowledge, and evaluation or assessment according to Adeyinka A. The design of a curriculum is likened to the design of a house in that a house is designed according to the purpose it will serve, as taught by Grace C. Offorma. Curriculum is a set plan and arrangement concerning target, content, and Lesson materials and also the way of which is used as guidance of management of activity of study to reach specific-purpose.  The preparation of learning outcomes and learning experiences is the culmination of a technically developed curriculum project.  Learning outcomes and learning experiences display how the curriculum fits the community and how teachers and school staff are expected to deliver curriculum content to students  It enables an educator to evaluate description of learning outcomes and learning experiences in curriculum documents. Definition of the concept of curriculum by Cecilia Braslavsky reads: According to the history of education, the term ‗curriculum‘ was originally related to the concept of a course of studies followed by a pupil in a teaching institution. The concept of ―curriculum‖ was used in the English-speaking tradition as equivalent to the French concept programme d‘études. Nevertheless, in recent decades, the concept of curriculum has evolved and gained in importance. Increasingly, it is used universally within the framework of globalization, the theory of pedagogy and the sociology of education. At the same time, the concept acquired such an importance that since the 1990s certain authors underscored the risk of an invading epistemology (i.e. the concept being used to indicate all dimensions of the educational process, without allowing any differentiated analytical approach to its complexity).
  9. 9. 9 In fact, the term curriculum is mostly used to refer to the existing contract between society, the State and educational professionals with regard to the educational experiences that learners should undergo during a certain phase of their lives. For the majority of authors and experts, the curriculum defines: (i) why; (ii) what; (iii) when; (iv) where; (v) how; and (vi) with whom to learn. Using educational concepts, we can say that the curriculum defines the educational foundations and contents, their sequencing in relation to the amount of time available for the learning experiences, the characteristics of the teaching institutions, the characteristics of the learning experiences, in particular from the point of view of methods to be used, the resources for learning and teaching (e.g. textbooks and new technologies), evaluation and teachers‘ profiles. Originally, the curriculum was considered as the product of a technical process. A document prepared by experts, depending on the state of the art of disciplinary and pedagogical knowledge. Benjamin Bloom and Hilda Taba were the most well-known authors of this period. Following the works of Stenhauser as well as of other researchers in education, the major part of the educational community considers that the curriculum has both a political dimension and a technical or professional dimension. Indeed, the curriculum relates to the connections between the goals of education and everyday life in learning institutions, schools, colleges and universities. According to one of the most significant theorists of the curriculum, this defines ‗what counts as valid knowledge‘. Increasingly, theorists of education recognize the political component of the curriculum—the fact that the curriculum is a field of ideological and political struggle that takes place in each society in order to give meaning to education. It is recognized that this meaning not only originates among experts, following professional criteria, but also through complex cultural processes. Thus, the curriculum is an intangible process that also has a material expression. The typical product of this process is one or several documents adopted at a given time by the political and educational authorities. In a narrow sense, the definitions contained in the produced curricula can be found in other curricular documents. In a wider sense, textbooks and teaching guides are also considered as curricular documents because they contribute to the production of meaning and to guide the teaching and learning process. With regard to material expression in a narrow sense, i.e. the official curriculum or documents adopted by the political and educational authorities, it could be said that these texts are increasingly flexible and open to teachers‘ interpretations.
  10. 10. 10 This flexibility has progressively led to the recognition of a hidden curriculum—one that is not written. This hidden curriculum could be viewed as the entire range of educational experiences promoted by schools and teachers through practices that are neither necessarily obligations nor written down. Research has highlighted, for example, the existence of a sexist hidden curriculum (discriminatory with regard to women) or a class-based hidden curriculum (discriminatory with regard to the poor). This situation may exist while the explicit contents proposed by the official curricular documents denounce discrimination against women or are specifically in favour of overcoming poverty. In fact, the recognition of the existence of a hidden curriculum drew attention to the existence of verbal and non-verbal messages built into educational practices, but also the possibility of becoming aware of it and of modifying teachers‘ practices. Listed below are seven (7) dimensions of curriculum: 1. Philosophical 2. Historical 3. Political 4. Ethical/Moral 5. Cultural 6. Global 7. Technological CONCLUSION It is of note to state that the concept of curriculum is ideologically based and varies with different schools of thought. Though these variations seem endless with each passing age and generation, the basic principles are foundational. The functionality of a curriculum is dependent on the concept, which is the driving factor. Concepts are defined meaningfully by designs, models, plans and schools. The general concession that concepts are perceptively built and developed by the learning process is undisputedly dependent on the dynamics of the society. If the concept of curriculum is not ambiguous and rightly so, then it is fifty-fifty. Getting the concept of curriculum to work is function of objectives, selection, organisation and evaluation. Today, curriculum is not a paperwork, but lifestyle of individuals in different scopes. Many assume that the concept of curriculum is the definition (What it says), which is different from the meaning (what is known), but it is what is seen (implemented). Every day is another concept of curriculum of life.
  11. 11. 11 References: Adeyinka, A. A. Major Trends in Curriculum Development in Nigeria Department of Educational Foundations, University of Ilorin. Asgari Azade Curriculum & Syllabus Design learning-experiences Bernstein, B., ed. Class, codes and control, vol. 2: theoretical studies towards sociology of language. London/Boston: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1973. Bloom B.S., et al. Taxonomy of educational objectives, handbook I: cognitive domain. In: Schultz, F., ed. Notable selections in education, 3 rd ed. Akron, OH: University of Akron, 2001. Bobbitt, John Franklin The Curriculum. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1918. Braslavsky Cecilia Rehaciendo escuelas : hacia un nuevo paradigma en la educación latinoamericana [Redo schools: towards a new paradigm in Latin American education], Faculty of Philosophy and Literature, Buenos Aires University, Santillana, 1999 Federal Government of Nigeria Nigeria Millennium development Goals Report 2010 Marsh, C.J. Perspectives: Key concepts for understanding curriculum London: Falmer Press Mishra Sanjaya Curriculum, ICT and Online Learning National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN) EDU703: Curriculum Development: Theory & Practice Obi, Chiaka Methodology in Business Education Oktek (Publishers) Nig. Ltd, 2005. Offorma G. C. Curriculum Implementation and Instruction UNI-World Educational Publishers (Nig) Rugg, H. New Trends in Curriculum Planning in Richmond Kenneth (ed.), The School Curriculum, London: Methwn & Co. 1936 Saylor J. G et al Planning Curriculum for Schools New York: Holt, Reinehart and Winston Taba Hilda Curriculum Development: Theory and Practice New York: Harcourt Brace, Jovanowich, Inc 1962. Tanner & Tanner Curriculum Development Theory New York: MacMillan Co.Inc Tyler Ralph Basic Principles of Curriculum and Instruction. Chicago: University of Chicago Press Yudhie Indra Reality Curriculum in Education