August 19, 2022

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What Ails Our Curriculum?

Is Curriculum Mechanical or Static? What are the prevalent guiding principles that shape the course of curriculum development? How effective are these? Are these enough, or there is something beyond them not getting addressed? These are some of the most important questions that a scholar in the field of education need to find answer to. In the present article I am going to explore these with an open mind; and therefore, I want all who happen go through it to remain open-minded too!

Let’s begin with the overall prevalent principles of curriculum development. Three basic principles are in vogue –

1. Subject – Centered Approach: Four basic features form the basis of this approach.

I. First, it calls for classification of the whole stock of knowledge into a number distinct subjects/disciplines with no inter-disciplinary connection, so to say. Universitas Swasta di Bandung  Each of these subjects is loaded with distinct syllabus, graded according to class or standard. Consequently, the content is also graded accordingly by the curriculum creators who are mostly subject expert teachers, experienced members of the statutory body created for the purpose etc. Generally, students are expected to get a ‘standard’ level of knowledge for some common subjects such as language & literature, basic sciences and mathematics, social sciences and a bit of computer knowledge by the time they qualify the High School Examinations. After the Secondary/High schooling, Subjects are divided into three basic streams of study – the Sciences, The Arts or Humanities, and the Commerce. Clearly, learners have to choose their career streams at this stage; they have to pursue their studies in the same chosen stream for the rest of their career. Of course, there are variations in the degree of flexibility of choice of subjects, and in inter-disciplinary co-relation from state to state and country to country.

ii. Content Delivery Strategy: Content is expected to be delivered by the subject teachers using what is known as ‘Direct Strategies’. It includes, among other things, three common ways – LECTURES, QUESTION-ANSWER, and DISCUSSIONS (Post Lecture). Lecture is delivered by the teacher, considering the learners to be completely ignorant of the content, in the classroom environment. Assessment of degree of acquisition of knowledge by learners is done through question-answer technique. Further, the teacher sometimes resorts to discussing with the learners some important aspects of the topic under study; but that is done mostly post-lecture.
iii. Learner’s Role – One-Way Flow of Information: In this scheme of subject-centered Approach of content development, the learner is given the least role to play. Konseling Online They are expected to be ‘passive receiver’ of information. Simultaneously, they may take notes during the lecture in the classrooms, as and when they feel need to do so. In short, there is a continuous one-way flow of information, that is, from the teacher to the class as a whole. However, how much ‘passive’ the learners are during the lecture session has come under severe discussions, of late. But, that is not the point that I want to discuss here.
iv. Finally, Repetition & Memorization are the only ways available for the learners to internalise the content. This is also supplemented by what we call as ‘writing practice’, which forms a part of ‘Repetition’. The moot point here is that the learners are forced to resort to ‘Rote Memorization’, so to say. Again, it is only a matter of discussion whether and how much do learners, while repeating and memorizing, understand what they are learning.

2. Child/Learner – Centered Approach: This approach to curriculum development has been much applauded by academicians and intellectuals these days. Three features of this approach are worth mentioning here:
I. The Theory of Constructivism: This approach follows the principle of Constructivism, said to be propounded by Jean Piaget. According to this theory, learners interact with new environment/situations with certain ‘prior knowledge’; they may encounter new and completely unknown situations and then, they themselves devise steps (based on their prior knowledge and experience) to understand the new situation. Through trial and error, they gradually come to draw conclusions and this adds to their own knowledge stock. It is to be noted that the learner is free to play whatever role he/she chooses to ‘construct knowledge’.

ii. Child or Learner Leads: Unlike the subject-centered approach, therefore, the learner is highly active and takes a lead role in teaching-learning process. He/she is given the role of initiator, participator, and constructor of knowledge. He/she is let free to use whatever tools and methods he/she wishes to choose. They may form groups, if they wish to.
iii. Role of the Teacher: One may wonder, then, what the teacher is for? As per this approach, the teacher is given the role of a ‘Facilitator’ only. He/she is a passive onlooker, watching the developments in the class and focussing on individual progress. He/she is expected to facilitate individual students in ‘constructing’ their knowledge, guiding them wherever and whenever they need cooperation and hints. He/she is not expected to address the whole class. Of course, the choice of tools, schedule, the subject or topic etc are kept within the control of the teacher along with the school management.

3. Life – centered Approach: This Principle or Approach is the most recent and was incorporated into the field of Curriculum development only in late nineteenth and early twentieth century. For the first time in Western Education System was the concept of incorporation of life as a part of education system was brought into vogue. Following features are worth considering:

I. Subject Curriculum vis-a-vis Life: It was felt that all education is worthless if it has no or scantly relationship with Life. Life and Curriculum must be intrinsically interlinked. Learners ought to be provided with such curriculum as would be applicable in real-life situations.

ii. Aspects of Life Curriculum: The end goal of a life curriculum is equipping learners with education for meaningful and successful living in varied situations of life. For this, apart from providing students with traditional knowledge, it is important to include contents relating to

1. Career. 2. Democracy. 3. Human Rights. 4. Social & Environmental Responsibility. 5. Development of self etc etc.

iii. Inter-disciplinary: This approach also calls for inter-disciplinary relationship. The subjects and their contents ought to be interlinked among themselves and also with life. There must be training of application of knowledge of more than one discipline of study to examine a problem or central issue that is intrinsically linked with life.

UNTOUCHED AND IGNORED DIMENSIONS:

While attempts are continuously being made to upgrade education system, there is no denying the fact that no attempt and development is beyond criticism. However, the points that I want to bring to focus is related to two dimensions of criticism that arouse doubts and curiosity as to why have they been ignored in criticisms.

1. Basic Premise: The basic premise on which all the principles of curriculum development have been based are as follows:

I. There is always a STOCK/POOL OF KNOWLEDGE that has to be disseminated among the learners.

II. Some parts of this STOCK gets outdated and are removed, while it is also being constantly upgraded by new discoveries and inventions. Education is therefore more mechanical than static.

III. This Stock/Pool of knowledge is disseminated through 3 Principles – The Subject-oeiented Principle, the Learner-oriented Principle and the Life-oriented Principle.

IV. Once this dissemination is done, the learners can safely be assumed to have acquired all that the formal education is designed to give.

2. No Spiritual/Moral Lessons: To one’s utter surprise, it is found that in all pursuits of perfecting the education system through modern ages, there is complete silence on the scope of universal spiritual and moral lessons! I mean, there have been attempts more to refine the process of dissemination of knowledge and information than to checking the kind of content in the Stock/Pool of knowledge. Knowledge and information of all that this physical world we perceive through our senses is sufficiently taken care of. But, it is hardly considered worthwhile to infuse learners with spiritual/ moral lessons that do not form part of the physical world, but that do have a decisive say in Man’s decision making process. One is forced to conclude that

Either

I. Man is supposed to have inherited all.spiritual and moral lessons by birth and, therefore, there is NO NEED to make them a part of any formal education system,

Or

ii. Spiritual and moral lessons don’t have any relevance in the physical world and in decision making process,

Or

iii. The knowledge acquired through the present educations system is enough for the learners to develop spiritual/moral lessons by themselves!

PERSONAL OPINION:

In this regard, it is important to consider the following facts. What are the common features of Man and Animal? In spite of that, what makes Man different from and superior to all animals? Let’s analyse:

I. Common Features:

A. Flesh and Blood: Both Man – and animal – bodies are made of flesh, blood, bones etc.

B. Basic Instincts: Both Man and animals exhibit four basic Instincts, viz. Instinct for Food, instinct for Sleep, instinct of Fear, and instinct of Sex. The degree of these instincts may vary from man to man and from man to animal or from animal to animal.

II. Why is Man Superior to animals? The only thing that makes Man Superior to all animals is the knowledge and instinct and sense of differentiating Right from Wrong. Instinct of food demands to kill and eat away all plants and animals to satisfy hunger. Instinct of Fear demands that we kill all organisms that are more powerful and hence dangerous to our existence; if we encounter any of them, they may kill us, so we must equip ourselves to kill them for our survival. Exactly the same is the feeling of animals for other animals or even for Man! But, do we not restrict ourselves from killing other men in the name of fraternity (unless we are threatened by them)? That is to say, Man is guided by a sense of ‘what is right and what is wrong?’ This very sense is a direct derivative of Spiritualism and morality.

And what a joke is it to overlook and ignore the knowledge of spirituality and morality in our pursuit of perfection! Truely speaking, it amounts to injecting the character of our learners with more enhanced features of animalism than Humanism!1
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We must find ways to equip our education materials with some highly standardized and universal Spiritual and Moral lessons. In fact, this must be the backbone of all knowledge to be imparted through our education system.