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1.2 DEFINITIONS OF CURRICULUM

The curriculum field is by no means clear; as a discipline of study and as a field of practice, ‘curriculum’ lacks clean boundaries” Curriculum is like the analogy of the “blind men’s elephant.” It is something different to all who work with it, as they all view it differently.

Just like most things in education, there is no agreed definition of ‘curriculum’ The New International Dictionary defines curriculum as “the whole body of a course in an educational institution or by a department” while The Oxford English Dictionary defines curriculum as courses taught in schools or universities.

Traditionally curriculum included two elements: content and examination. According to Burton & McDonald (2001) it is difficult to provide a simple dictionary definition for this term because of its complex nature. Simply it can be considered as the list of topics taught in the school or in an institution. In wider view it encompasses all the experiences that the student undergoes through while being part of that institution.

Harden (2001) has elaborated the concept “a curriculum is a sophisticated blend of educational strategies, course content, learning outcomes, educational experiences, assessment, the assessment, the educational. environment and the individual students’ learning style, personal timetable and the program of work”.

The literature contains more than 120 definitions of curriculum. Following is a representative sample. In order to understand the concep and nature of curriculum, let us study a few definitions. Curriculum is

  • Content
  • A set of subjects
  • That which is taught
  • A set of materials
  • A sequence of courses
  • Sequence of experiences
  • A set of performance objectives
  • A course of study
  • A program of studies
  • A plan for learning
  • Everything that goes on within the school, including extra- class activities, guidance, and interpersonal relationships
  • That which is taught both inside and outside of school, directed by the school
  • Everything that is planned by school personnel
  • A series of experiences undergone by learners in school
  • That which an individual learner experiences as a result of schooling
  • A series of planned events that are intended to have educational consequences
  • Decisions about educational experiences outcomes andactivities.

Curriculum, can be defined as prescriptive, descriptive, or both. “Prescriptive definitions provide us with what ‘ought’ to happen, and they more often than not take the form of a plan, an intended program, or some kind of expert opinion about what needs to take place in the course of study” (Ellis, 2004).

Analogous to prescriptive curriculums are medical prescriptions that patients have filled by pharmacists; we do not know how many are actually followed. “The best guess is that most are not” (Ellis, 2004).

This is parallel to the prescribed curriculum for schools where the teacher, like the patient, ultimately decides whether the prescription will be followed. In essence, “the developer proposes, but the teacher disposes” (Ellis, 2004).

To understand the nature and extent of curriculum diversity, it might be useful at this juncture to examine the prescriptive and descriptive definitions offered by some of the past and present leaders in the field.

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