What is a Curriculum?

A curriculum is more than a list of topics to be covered by an educational program, for which the more commonly accepted word is a ‘syllabus’. A curriculum is, first of all, a policy statement about a piece of education, and secondly an indication as to the ways in which that policy is to be realized through a program of action. It is the sum of all the activities, experiences and learning opportunities for which an institution (such as the Society) or a teacher (such as a faculty member) takes responsibility – either deliberately or by default (Coles, 2003).

The following are some of the popular definitions of curriculum:

  • May be defined as an educational plan that spells out which goals and objectives should be achieved, which topics should be covered and which methods are to be used for learning, teaching and evaluation (Wojtczak, 2002).
  • Is the planned and guided learning experiences and intended learning outcomes, formulated through the systematic reconstruction of knowledge and experiences, under the auspices of the school, for the learners’ continuous and wilful growth in personal social competence (Tanner, 1980).
  • The term curriculum refers to the sum total of organized learning stated as educational ends, activities, school subjects and/or topics decided upon and provided within an educational institution for the attainment of the students (Garcia, 1976, SEAMEO RELC)
  • A curriculum is an attempt to communicate the essential principles and features of an educational proposal in such a form that it is open to critical scrutiny and capable of effective translation into practice’. A curriculum is rather like a recipe in cookery (Stenhouse,1975)

General Curriculum Planning

Taba’s outline (1962) of the steps which a course designer must work through to develop subject matter courses has become the foundation for many other writers’ suggestions. Her list of ‘curriculum processes’ includes the following:
    • Diagnosis of needs
    • Formulation of objectives
    • Selection of content
    • Organization of content
    • Selection of learning experiences
    • Organization of learning experiences
    • Determination of what to evaluate, and the means to evaluate

Decisions in Curriculum Construction

Curriculum development revolves around three major curricular elements (Garcia, 1976):
  1. decisions on what to teach which are educational ends generated at three levels of specificity and immediacy(educational aims, educational objectives, and instructional objectives)to the learner;
  2. decisions on how to teach, concerned with strategies in terms of selecting and organizing learning opportunities, and
  3. decisions concerning the extent to which educational ends are being attained through the strategies or means provided.