The history of curriculum Essay

Curriculum Development in the Postmodern Era, 2006, Patrick Slattery, second edition, CRC Press.

In his book, Patrick states that development of the curriculum in the postmodern era provided the first introduction and analysis of contemporary concepts of curriculum development in relation to postmodernism. The educators were challenged not only to transcend purely traditional approaches to curriculum development, but also to incorporate various postmodern disclosures into their reflection and action in schools. He says that the need to understand curriculum relation to global religions, multicultural communities, ethnic relations and social political interest groups has been magnified.

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He also states that the post modern scholars will challenge the assumption that historical interpretation must be directed towards the validation of the knowledge and values of the dominant culture or modern paradigm. Patrick investigates the dimensions of culture, religion and spirituality, and how they are indicators of whether the society is informed by curriculum studies. He says that there are those who have studied in catholic schools, Muslim or Hindu schools, and the influence of the faith and curriculum taught in those schools has influenced their belief and behaviors. He gives an example of his life, where he has been to a catholic sponsored school, and has also been to China, and these have influenced his behaviors, in that he can practice activities like yoga and some of the catholic beliefs and practices. There are some of the effects that the curriculum has on the students who study at new environments.

Educational reconstruction and post-colonial curriculum development: A comparative study of four African countries, David C. Woolman, International Education Journal Vol 2, No 5, 2001, WCCES Commission 6 Special 2001Congress Issue retrieved on 2/14/2009 from http://ehlt.flinders.edu.au/education/iej/articles/v2n5/4Wool/paper.pdf

David says that in attempts to build Africa in a modernized way, there has been the challenge of whether to incorporate multicultural traditions in the current curriculum or not. Africans are still undecided if to maintain the educational systems that were introduced to them during the colonial era. Critical theorists from Africa have advocated for the inclusion of indigenous traditions, social change and empowerment in the reconstruction of the curriculum. David’s paper is a research that was done in four African countries; Kenya, Mali, Mozambique and Nigeria since the time they gained independence. In his research, he compares the inclusion of the African culture, history and language in curriculum and innovation in the methodology.

 At the time these African countries gained independence, they focused their energy and priority on building education policies that would help to reconstruct the Nations to depend on themselves, and especially to help build back the nations economy and National unity. He says that in all the four countries, their development and the education policies reflected their acceptance for the economic westernization, either in the form of socialism or capitalism. A positive aspect that was gotten from the Western education is that Africans got the opportunity to engage in education activities, just like other people from other continents. Today, most countries in Africa offer education that is accepted universally, which also gives the students an equal opportunity to work anywhere in the world, regardless of their nationality, racial difference, or gender.

 David adds that in some instances, Africans have criticized the colonial education and said that the mission schools neglected the culture and the history of Africans, which led them to lose the self respect and love for their own races. This led to the move to include the African heritage education in their curriculum. After they gained independence, many African governments invested heavily in the expansion of education and diversification, and given the limited resources the African governments faced, the change has so far been impressive.  However, many critics think that the system has failed to improve life for most Africans, and has instead continued to destabilize the society. In conclusion, David says that the reconstruction of the curriculum is an on going and a never ending process. He says that it works in the context of the present crises, but it moves to transcend this by creative integration of past successes and the future goals. He also writes of the need to involve the teachers in all the stages of the curriculum in the process of reconstructions because their decisions and views are important too.

Explorations in Curriculum History Research, Lynn M. Burlbaw, Sherry L. Field, IA Press, 2005, pages 3-15

Lynn and Sherry give a history of the various subjects studied in school today. Each subject has a different background. They also give the history of the different methods of teaching that have been used at the different stages of the history, and in different schools. The authors say that the field of curriculum history had been neglected for long, especially in the 18th century. It was not until the beginning of the 19th century that the educators began to see the difficulties that they faced while teaching. This led them to come up with new ways that could be used to convey the message better to the students.

  However, during the past quarter of the century, it has prospered and established a place for itself in the society. Before then, the scholars had not realized that the field of curriculum had an important history. This discovery was then followed by a period of numerous books and essays publishing concerning the history of curriculum. The two writers give the views of various researchers concerning the history of curriculum. They discuss their differences and opinions in the way that the curriculum should be.

Hong Kong’s Chinese History Curriculum from 1945: Politics and Identity

 Flora Lai-Fong Kan, Hong Kong University Press, pgs 140 -141, 2007

Flora gives the history of the Chinese history curriculum from 1945. She says that at first, the only subjects that were studied comprised of the history of the Chinese. Teachers in China first concentrated on teaching the traditional history, but later on in 1967, Chinese history was made an independent subject at the A-level, H- level and CEE, so that the students could have a chance to widen up on their choice of subjects. Then a few years later, the SAR government reviewed the education system and went ahead to reform the Chinese History Curriculum. It proposed options for the future development of the subject, leaving Chinese history as an independent subject, integrating it into PSHE. After the old history that was taught in schools was reformed, a new subject called “New History” was formed, which made history a more interesting subject in the curriculum.

Flora quotes the words of Tung Chee Hwa, the Chief Executive of HKSAR, who said that schools should incorporate the teachings of the Chinese values in their curriculum because they are an opportunity for the children to learn more about their culture and history. These studies would also bring a sense of belonging to the students and above all preserve their culture. She also states that the history would install a fresh confidence in to the students and restore the self respect of the people of China. In general, the author stresses that the incorporation of the history education in all the curriculums should be emphasized to ensure school going children learn about their origin and way of life early enough.

School Subject Teaching: The History and Future of the Curriculum, William Ashley Kent Edition: illustrated Routledge, 2000

Ashley says that the error after the colonial era has seen the most significant changes introduced in the English educational system. She says that since the 1988 government reform Act, governments have made a political commitment to educational reform and the latest and third version of the National curriculum in England. Curriculum 2000 has been constructed. Her book represents a wide collection of histories which have had inevitable variations in the challenges that it has faced, the emphasis that has been put on it and the concern, if any changes should be made.  She has viewed the history of every subject i9n the curriculum used in England and the changes that have been made no forgetting those that are expected. She has also written about the factors that have contributed to the changes that we see in the curriculum today, including the role in which the school council has played in changing the process of curriculum in schools. Other factors are such as the government’s influence on the curriculum, and the research that has been done concerning the history of curriculum.

Smith, M. K. (1996, 2000) ‘Curriculum theory and practice’ the encyclopedia of informal education, retrieved on 2/13/2009 from http://www.infed.org/biblio/b-curric.htm#introduction

Curriculums have existed for long, but as the years go by, the way we theorize and understand them has changed. Smith says that curriculum has its origins in Greece. He says that the word curriculum comes from a Latin word, “currence”, which means to run, while “curriculum” meant a racing chariot. It is a body of knowledge, content and subjects. Curriculum has been confused with syllabus, but these two are not the same. Syllabus means the subject of a series in lectures, the table of the heads of disclosure or a concise statement, and many times entails a series of courses that end with examinations. Smith continues to say that curriculum is a process. It is an interaction between the teachers and the students in the hope that the teachers will pass knowledge to their students.

He quotes Franklin Bobbitt, 1928-1929 who is famous for his writings on curriculum. Bobbitt states that the central theory of curriculum is simple. He says that since human life consists of a performance of different activities, the education offered in the curriculums is important because it prepares the person to perform these activities efficiently and effectively. However numerous or diverse the activities might be for people of different social classes, they can be discovered. This is possible if one goes to a world of affairs to discover what he is set out to do. By doing this, he will be able to know the habits, abilities, attitudes, appreciations and forms of knowledge needed to pursue his activities. These are the objectives of curriculum, which are definite and numerous, and for the youth or the children to attain their activities, they must have this knowledge that can only be got from the curriculum. In his paper, Smith emphasizes the important role of experiencing the curriculum because of the knowledge it provides in a person’s life.

The Multicultural Dimension of the National Curriculum, Anna S. King, Michael Jonathan Reiss Edition: illustrated, Routledge, 1993, pp 241-150

Anna and Michael argue that there is a need to develop a curriculum that can cater for the multicultural society. The History of National Curriculum has plenty of ability and scope to introduce a teaching system that addresses the fundamental issues of cultural diversity and racism, which in schools should teach students how to relate with different people. The curriculum of multiculturalism should be included in today’s education system, and should be understood better than just mere teachings about other cultures. They state that curriculum is an introduction to the whole way of life of the community, and a way to teach attitudinal elements and skill and not just for purposes of passing exams and gaining knowledge alone.

 However, this is achieved in different ways, depending on the teacher, the students being taught and the rate at which the students are learning. They say that the ability to live and to work together happily and productively requires multicultural education. In their book, they have given examples on their preference for drama, role play and story telling, which they argue that they generate understanding and real commitment to the students, provided the work is based on firm historical information and sources. They also argue that even if teachers have a fair degree of flexibility, the national centralized assessment of the curriculum, through the standard assessment tests will, to a large extent, determine what is taught and how it is taught.

The authors also discuss the education reform Act of 1988, which was a landmark in the history of English and Welsh education, reason being that for the first time, the British government was given a chance to take direct responsibility for the school curriculum and its assessment. It was hoped that this curriculum would overcome racial inequality. The authors say that in their efforts to explore the issues of cultural identity and racial justice throughout the curriculum, they show their support for the teachers and the professionals with a commitment to translate or to interpret any kind of curriculum in ways that challenge racism and empower pupils. They also hope to convince the school managers and governors of the need to include multicultural dimension in their curriculum. This book is characterized by a rich variety of approaches presented under the umbrella term of multicultural education. Some of the contributors in their book approach the subject from an anthropological point of view, or from a cultural diversity. This is a good indication that multicultural education is an open subject, without boundaries and a lot of unknown contents that could still be discussed, from either a political view or from a social view.

The Struggle for the American Curriculum, 1893-1958: 1893-1958, Herbert M. Kliebard, Third edition, Routledge press, 2004

Herbert talks of the challenges that the teachers faced in the 18th century. Teachers were ill trained, harassed and underpaid, and yet, expected to instill the standard virtues, community values and also introduce strict discipline to the unruly children. But as the cities grew, the schools were no longer the direct instruments of a visible and a unified community. They became an ever more critical meditating institution between the family and a puzzling and interpersonal social order, an institution through which the norms and ways of surviving in the new industrial society would be conveyed. These improvements resulted to a change in the educational centre of gravity, which shifted from the tangible presence of the teacher, to the remote knowledge and values incarnate in the curriculum. In the 1920s when the social reconstructions were bring made in America, there were other powerful forces that were affecting the course of curriculum change in the United States. By 1930s, curriculum reform had become a national preoccupation. There was a definite change in the curriculum, although the direction that it was taking was uncertain. 70 percent of the cities were engaging themselves in organized curriculum development. The adoption of a new curriculum in almost every district became the national trend. Herbert discusses the general changes that the American curriculum experienced in the early up to the mid 1920s.

Towards the Intercultural Proactive School; curriculum leadership, an electronic journal for leaders in education, Dr. Anne Hickling Hudson, 2004, retrieved on 2/14/2009 from

http://www.curriculum.edu.au/leader/towards_the_interculturally_proactive_school,4618.html?issueID=9691

Ann writes that whatever the ethnic profile of a school, there is an official requirement in Australia that  the curriculum should be multicultural, in order to prepare the students for their life in a multi cultural society and a globalizing world. To accomplish this, the Australian federal government has identified specific dimensions of multicultural policy, and education is expected to help the students to develop all these. These dimensions include civic duty- an obligation to support the Australian democratic institutions and the constitution, social equity, cultural respect and productive diversity. She says that post colonial teachings should involve helping the students to identify and to critique the different regimes of truth that characterizes our social arrangements and to build positive identities that move easily between the global and the local world. She also talks of the intercultural proactive schools, which are schools where most teachers are constantly active in designing and implementing a curriculum, programs and strategies to promote the intercultural understanding and inter-relationships. She suggests that the teachers be encouraged and assisted to develop the intercultural skills through professional development programs.

 Anne also shows her support for the multicultural programs. She gives an example of the Australian government which supports these programs by giving financial assistance for the special needs of the cultural minorities and curriculum development advice. She talks of Queensland, which introduced a new program of curriculum reform. Its aim is to restore the curriculum around the four new interdisciplinary areas of learning. These are active citizen ship, life pathways and social futures, multilateralism numerals and communication media and lastly environments and technologies. She concludes her article by saying that a postcolonial perspective in the education curriculum would be both analytical and activist in challenging preconceived boundaries. It would also be important in helping the students to learn how to identify the prejudices, divisions and hierarchies, and how they have come to be the foundations of the continuing and the deepening inequalities and globalization. Finally, a post colonial perspective in the curriculum would encourage the students to utilize and to contribute to the positive trends as part of their education, like becoming a part of the Tran global agencies or movements that promote the social justice.

Understanding and Shaping Curriculum: What We Teach and why, Thomas W. Hewitt, SAGE, 2006, pp 24-35

Thomas says that curriculum is not just a word that has been invented recently. It neither refers to what is taught in schools, or the list of the subjects that are taught. Since curriculum comes from a Greek word which means to run, schooling can also be viewed as a course that needs to be run by the students. He compares the curriculum to a race course and says that just as it has a known beginning and an end, so should the curriculum be defined, from the beginning to the end. Thomas discusses the problems encountered in deciding the method which would be most effective in delivering the teachings, especially the scientific courses which were a challenge to the teachers. He continues to state that the academic and the school community divide influenced the development of the curriculum in a broad way. Thomas says that conceptualizing and mapping out curriculum and the curriculum work were two aspects that moved in two different directions.

 There were those who pursued curriculum as an academic function, while there were those who advocated for the practical, understanding curriculum through its use by practitioners in schools. The debate continued as some addressed curriculum as the need to differentiate knowledge according to specific purposes. There were others that assumed the mantle of formal academic knowledge and asked which of the disciplines more worthy in the formation of curriculum content. Another group of people was that which forsook the knowledge issue in favor of beginning with aims and purposes to be served or centering on the child, and then determining what knowledge or experience would meet those needs. These two arguments suggest that curriculum was evolving as a larger focus beyond merely selecting knowledge from the social sciences about the relationships among the people and the society.

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