In developing goals for educational programs, curriculum planners draw on their understanding both of the present and long-term needs of learners and of society as well as the planners’ beliefs and values about schools, learners, and teachers. These beliefs and values are sometimes referred to as curriculum ideologies, and represent the philosophical underpinnings for educational programs and the justification for the kinds of aim they contain.
Each of the five curriculum perspectives or ideologies below emphasizes a different approach to the role of language in the curriculum (Richards, 2001).
- Academic Rationalism. The justification for the aims of curriculum stresses the intrinsic value of the subject matter and its role in developing the learner’s intellect, humanistic values, and rationality. The content matter of different subjects is viewed as the basis for a curriculum. Mastery of content is an end in itself rather than a means of solving social problems or providing efficient means to achieve the goals of policymakers.
- Social and Economic Efficiency. This educational philosophy emphasizes the practical needs of learners and society and the role of an educational program in producing learners who are economically productive. Bobbit (1918), one of the founders of curriculum theory, advocated this view of the curriculum. Curriculum development was seen as based on scientific principles, its practitioners were “educational engineers’ whose job was to “discover the total range of habits, skills, abilities, forms of thoughts…etc., that its members need for the effective performance of their vocational labors.” In language teaching, this philosophy leads to an emphasis on practical and functional skills in a foreign or second language.
- Learner-centeredness. In language teaching, this educational philosophy is leading to an emphasis on process rather than product, a focus on learner differences, learner strategies and on learner self-direction and autonomy.
- Social Reconstructionism. This curriculum perspective emphasizes the roles schools and learners can and should play in addressing social injustices and inequality. Morris (1995) observes: The curriculum derived from this perspective focuses on developing knowledge, skills and attitudes which would create a world where people care about each other, the environment, and the distribution of wealth. Tolerance, the acceptance of diversity and peace would be encouraged. Social injustices and inequality would be central issues in the curriculum.
- Cultural Pluralism. This philosophy argues that schools should prepare students to participate in several different cultures and not merely the culture of the dominant social and economic group. Cultural pluralism seeks to redress racism, to raise the self-esteem of minority groups, and to help children appreciate the viewpoints of other cultures and religions (Phillips and Terry , 1999)