Chwee Geok Quek
What Is Curriculum?
In the curriculum evaluation literature, there appears to be no consensus on what curriculum is. The term ‘curriculum’ is used by different stakeholders to mean different things. It is not uncommon for teachers to equate curriculum to ‘the syllabus’, the content, the topics and the knowledge to be taught at each grade level. ‘Curriculum’ has also been variously used by educators to mean the ‘prescribed’ teaching materials for use across grade levels. In environments when teachers have academic standards (criteria to determine achievement for a particular subject area at a particular grade level) to adhere to, the standards are the curriculum (Erickson, 2007). Consequently, parents tend to equate curriculum to what is to be covered in (high-stakes) tests and exams. A common question asked of teachers during parent- teacher meetings or through email these days is ‘Will this be tested? If not, why are you teaching it?’ It is probably true that the testing tail wags the curriculum dog especially in systems where success is inextricably tied to student performance in standardised exams and international studies.
How do experts see curriculum? Erickson (2007)) wrote that ‘a curriculum is a coherent, teacher-friendly document that reflects the intent (emphasis in original) of the academic standards’ (p. 48). To Grundy, curriculum is ‘a programme of activities (by teachers and pupils) designed so that pupils will attain so far as possible certain educational and other schooling ends or objectives’ (Grundy, 1987). Kerr (1968) wrote that curriculum refers to ‘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’. Yet others define curriculum as ‘what happens in the classroom and what people do to prepare and evaluate’ (Kelly, 1999, 2009), however, opines that
C.G. Quek (*)
Curriculum Planning and Development Division, Ministry of Education, Singapore, Singapore
L.S. Tan et al. (eds.), Curriculum for High Ability Learners, Education Innovation Series, DOI 10.1007/978-981-10-2697-3_14
‘ curriculum must embrace all the learning that goes on in school whether it is expressly planned and intended or is a by-product of our planning and or practice’ (p.11). Stenhouse (1975) defined curriculum as ‘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’. Bobbitt (1918) sees curriculum as a set of experiences which learners must have to acquire the skills that are needed to ‘live life’. Besides what has been planned, and ‘taught’, Kelly (2009) asserts that what is received by the students is equally important. This alludes to a distinction between the planned and espoused curriculum, the enacted curriculum and the received curriculum.
In this chapter, curriculum refers to the knowledge and skills that learners will acquire as a result of well-planned instructional activities and learning experiences designed to enable them to meet set learner outcomes.