Education is a powerful tool for shaping individuals’ perspectives, attitudes, and behaviours, which can create a more harmonious and interconnected world.
Sustainable Development Goal 4 focuses on education in the post-2015 development agenda. It aims to provide inclusive, equitable, high-quality education while promoting lifelong learning opportunities. The curriculum plays a crucial role in enabling quality learning and supporting education relevant to holistic development. Therefore, this paper aims to identify the factors that make a quality curriculum and support curricular innovation in UNESCO Member States to achieve Sustainable Development Goal Four.
The curriculum is a determining factor in ensuring inclusive education and equitable provision. It provides the structure for quality learning when teachers may be underqualified or inexperienced, classrooms are under-resourced, and students lack prior frameworks to situate their knowledge. Additionally, the curriculum outlines the competencies necessary for lifelong learning and holistic development.
At the crossroads of SDG 4, education should have a curriculum encompassing all four key aspects.
(1) inclusive and equitable,
(2) characterized by quality learning,
(3) promoting lifelong learning, and
(4) relevant to holistic development.
The Curriculum Framework
The Curriculum Framework is a crucial document that outlines a society’s educational vision, values, and goals. It is developed by a group of experts in curriculum and education policy and reflects a social and political consensus. The document includes statements about the conception of learning, underlying values, the significant aims, purposes, and tasks of education, and the development of school culture. It is an important policy document that describes various requirements, regulations, and guidance for all stakeholders in the education system to follow. These guidelines should be respected by schools, teachers, and other curriculum document developers, such as textbook and teacher guide creators.
A Curriculum Framework can be seen as a “Constitution” for the education system. Just as a national Constitution defines the scope, sets limits, and legitimizes the laws of a country, a Curriculum Framework defines, restricts, and validates decisions within classrooms, schools, and, in many cases, the education system as a whole. Therefore, it is extremely important to have open discussions and consultations while creating a Curriculum Framework.
A Curriculum Framework can perform various specific functions, such as:
The curriculum is an important part of education, and it involves various elements such as national statements, educational values, and policies. The vision aims, and objectives of the curriculum must be clearly outlined for each stage of schooling, including transitions and links to further education, higher education, work and lifelong learning. The educational philosophy that underlies the curriculum must be explained, along with the approaches to teaching, learning, and assessment that are intrinsic to it. The curriculum must also prescribe requirements for implementation, monitoring, and evaluation, and provide clear advice to teachers on appropriate pedagogy and assessment methodologies. Additionally, policymakers should be informed of the curriculum requirements and how they can contribute to achieving the curriculum vision. Guidelines should also be provided to teacher educators and, where appropriate, textbook writers. Finally, the curriculum structure should be outlined, including its subjects or learning areas, and the rationale for their inclusion in the curriculum, and allocate time to various subjects and Learning Areas in each grade or stage.
Depending on how well-developed teaching and teachers are in any particular country, a curriculum framework and guidance need to have more or less prescription – and countries need to know when they can move to less prescription to free up teachers to make local decisions.
A subject curriculum, also known as a syllabus, outlines the learning objectives for a specific subject at different grade levels. Typically, subject specialists who are well-versed in the specific knowledge, skills, and values associated with the subject create the syllabus. These syllabus writers also possess expertise in pedagogy and child development.
Each syllabus must align with the Curriculum Framework’s requirements, including its educational philosophy, teaching and learning approaches, and assessment methods. It should contain the necessary syllabus components such as the rationale, aims, objectives, anticipated learning outcomes, content, advice on teaching and assessment, and other relevant information. The syllabus should also consider and allocate space for integrated learning across the curriculum, covering a breadth and depth of content achievable at defined standards within the prescribed time allocation in the Framework (if set).
Many curricula provide the flexibility for schools and local authorities to include topics of particular significance to the local community. If this possibility is available, the local material should meet similar quality standards as those expected of a centrally developed syllabus. However, how prescriptive a curriculum is will determine whether or not this possibility is available. Prescriptive curricula, while providing more structure for under-qualified and less experienced teachers, may not easily allow space for locally relevant topics.
It is important to note that relevance is a vital component of any curriculum. Therefore, it may be a good idea to design less prescriptive curricula and allow more space for the inclusion of locally relevant topics. While this approach may require more guidance at the national level, it can provide distinct advantages for learners and learning.
The curricula presented in this section do not aim to diminish the potential for realizing cross-curricular objectives. It is important to note that while certain curricula may appear to be more specialized, they are not intended to restrict opportunities for students to engage in cross-disciplinary learning. Rather, the curricula serve as a framework for students to develop a deep understanding of the core concepts and skills within their chosen discipline, while also fostering the acquisition of complementary knowledge and skills that are transferable across multiple disciplines.
Teachers rely on textbooks, teacher guides, and other support materials to help them plan classroom activities that align with the curriculum framework and syllabus. While curriculum documents provide important information, they do not always directly assist teachers in their day-to-day planning. Textbooks, teacher guides, and other materials are essential resources that provide teachers with ideas and resources to make learning interesting, effective, relevant, and inclusive.
It is important to note that textbooks are not the only curriculum documents. In contemporary curriculum models, textbooks are viewed as just one of many resources available to teachers to implement the curriculum. Textbooks should be inclusive, relevant, lively, engaging, and stimulating, and should excite curiosity and promote inquiry and creativity. They should provide challenging activities that encourage students to question, research, and find answers on their own.
Consistency between the Curriculum Framework and learning support materials is crucial for the success of the curriculum. Lack of consistency can lead to confusion, disputes, and poor student learning outcomes. Textbooks or assessments should not drive a good curriculum but by the vision defined by a Curriculum Framework. Skilled professional teachers should execute the curriculum with support from learning materials, textbooks, and assessment practices.
4A good quality curriculum is based on a set of principles about how children learn. In order to achieve this, there must be a sound and consistently applied set of assumptions about how children learn. This paper is based on some of these assumptions, which in turn are based on the premise that teachers are critical in realizing each of these principles. Teachers are the mediators between the curriculum and the learners, and they play a crucial role in this process.
Each student is unique and has their own way of learning. A good curriculum should provide space for teachers to recognize each learner’s capacities and respect the differences in how children prefer to learn. Students learn by making connections between what they already know and what is new to them, and by seeking meaning and relevance. They reinforce these connections by applying the newly acquired knowledge and skills to real or simulated situations, which helps them develop more complex cognitive relationships and structures.
Students’ prior knowledge needs to be engaged to develop new learning. Personalized or learner-centered approaches to learning place considerable importance on the background, prior knowledge, needs and current stage of development and potential of each learner. Learning is most effective when new material is at least somewhat relevant to their prior knowledge and experience or to their goals.
Students learn best when they value what they are learning, and when they are motivated to learn. A love for learning and a motivation to continue learning is critically important in sustaining learning and developing a lifelong commitment to learning. Students should play an active role in their learning, helping to set their learning goals and taking responsibility for their participation in and contributions to the classroom. Learning is also a social activity, and classroom learning experiences should be organized accordingly.
Students learn best when they reflect on their learning and can articulate their current level of understanding. Such reflection helps them take responsibility for their learning, set goals, understand how they learn best, and assess their progress. Finally, students learn best in warm, safe and supportive environments that are appropriately challenging and enjoyable. Good relationships between teachers and students, and among students themselves, are critical for learning. Classroom regimes based on fear, excessive pressure or monotonous drilling only serve to alienate learners.
Students require a solid foundation of factual knowledge along with an understanding of the theories that connect them in order to develop competence in a specific area of study. This knowledge needs to be learned in the context of a conceptual framework, and students must also develop the skills, values, and attitudes required to master the subject. Teachers can help students learn more effectively by providing timely feedback on their progress through continuous assessment. Effective feedback should tell students what they need to improve, what they do or do not understand, and how they can make progress.
It’s worth noting that certain learning outcomes, such as ethical behaviour, civic responsibility, global citizenship, emotional maturity, moral character, diversity tolerance, curiosity, cooperation, aesthetic appreciation, social relations, community solidarity, and environmental responsibility, are difficult to quantify. However, the fact that these learning areas are not easily assessed should not diminish their importance in the curriculum.
Following this, we will know more on assessments in the next.
“Education for All – For the Cause of Education”, which is driven by the doctrine of
Education-Of the People; Education-By the People; Education-For the People. (contd………)