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CHAPTER-10 ISSUES IN THE CURRICULUM AT ELEMENTARY LEVEL

Curriculum development is a highly organized and systematic process and involves a number of procedures. Many of these procedures include incorporating the results from international research studies and reforms made in other countries.

These studies and reforms are then related to the particular subject and the position in Pakistan so that the proposed curriculum may have its roots in the socio-economic setup in which it is to be introduced.Hence, unlike a machine, it is not possible to accept any curriculum in its entirety. It has to be studied thoroughly and all aspects are to be critically examined before any component is recommended for adoption.

In order to achieve the goals of curriculum it is necessary that important issues and problems in curriculum should be discussed so that guidelines may be available to curriculum planners, school administrators, school teachers, school students and their parents for making decisions about school education. Some of the issues and problems are as follows.

1. Integration vs. segregation

Probably one of the most common issues within national curriculum policies has been the balance between integration and segregation. There have been two separate aspects. On one hand, the question has been to what extent the curriculum should integrate various school subjects to broader groups, or whether the traditional schools subjects should kept independent.

On the other hand integration also refers to different students. The question is: should all students be kept together as much as possible, or should they be segregated according to their abilities, personality features. or other characteristics? The global trend within the curriculum reforms is to move towards integration and inclusion, rather than maintain segregation and separation of students.

2. Focusing on learning

Regardless of the curriculum model that has been chosen by the authorities, the common issue in all curriculum reforms is that what students learn is in the center of attention. Traditionally, the logic of curriculum thinking was based on choosing the right content and appropriate methods of instruction and then students will learn what they are expected to learn, this illusion still dominates some education reforms efforts.

Now, however, what students should know and be able to do as a result of going to school, has become more emphasized but also the nature of learning as constructive intellectual and social process has been incorporated into various curriculum models in a new way.

3.Involving teachers.

For a long time, curriculum used to be mainly a document prepared by the authorities that was sent to schools to be implemented as a mandate. Although teachers may have been used as experts in curriculum working groups, the end users have had only a very limited role in actual curriculum planning process.

Primary and secondary school curricula are usually designed at higher levels, within Ministry of Education and other central institutions. However, participation by different stakeholders in the curriculum development process should be seen as a fundamental part of the democratic process.

There is a need for co-operation and power sharing with those ‘middlemen’ who play important role-school heads, teacher educators and local administrators, and, of course, for the involvement of teachers. Teachers are often perceived as a conservative force, i.e. opposed to curriculum change.

This is at least in part due to the fact that they are largely unprepared for and excluded from the planning of reforms. They tend to be regarded more as ‘conveyors’ than designers of the curriculum. However, the closer that curriculum development gets to school level, the more teachers need to be involved.

One typical element of the new education reform agenda is centralized curriculum that ensures common and consistent coverage of what every student should know and be able to do often in the form of high standards, and normally limits teachers’ role in curriculum planning.

  • How can we involve the teachers in the curriculum planning process and what types of competences should the members of the curriculum planning teams possess?
  • Why is curriculum planning not actualized fully and effectively in the schools by teachers and professionals in a bottom to top approach?
  • Are teachers equipped with the necessary competencies to implement learner-centered curricula?

4.Integrating Assessment Criteria with Curriculum

Another key issue is student assessment. As a result of increased consequential accountability schools and teachers are dealing with more and more external assessment and evaluation related to their work. For example, students learning is tested more regularly by external agencies, teachers’ work in school is inspected and appraised, schools are monitored and evaluated by various measures, and the entire school systems are under a magnified lens as for as their performance is concerned.

The issue that has occurred in many education reforms due to the evolution of the new assessment and accountability culture is disconnection of curriculum and assessment. Too often students’ learning is assessed using specifically prepared criteria that may or may not have appropriate connection to the curriculum.

This means that teachers should teach according the curriculum and prepare their students to take tests and exams that are designed using another criteria for standards, benchmarks, or similar. In these cases the assessment becomes actual curriculum and the purpose of teaching is to prepare students to pass the tests.

5.Centralized vs. decentralized curriculum

In most of the countries the structure of curriculum development is predominantly centralized, with varying degrees of active decision-making at regional, local and school levels. While in some parts of the world decentralization is spreading to the local level and school-based curriculum development is gaining in popularity, this does not appear to be the case on any significant scale in Pakistan.

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