What Defines the Curriculum?

My Previous Thoughts About Curriculum…

  • Every province in Canada has a different curriculum because education falls under the provincial government’s jurisdictions, not the federal government.
  • The government gets together and decides what is “supposed” to be taught to students and what skills they deem important for students to have. There is little input from parents, teachers, and students.
  • The curriculum changes every several years depending on the current social situation and new educational theories.
  • The curriculum is designed for a group, not for an individual student. Furthermore, it is based on an average or what most children should know once they reach a certain age or grade.
  • There are different types of curriculum (i.e. hidden curriculum, null curriculum, etc.).
  • Teachers decide how they want to teach the curriculum.

What I Know Now About Curriculum…

How School Curricula is Developed and Implemented:

“Every education policy decision can be seen as being, in some sense, a political decision”

Ben Levin, 2008

What I learnt from the article “Curriculum Policy and the Politics of What Should Be Learned in Schools” is that curriculum is organized around two main levels of objectives: general or broad goals and specific learning activities and objectives. This is not too surprising, the general or broad goals are the outcomes and the specific learning activities are how the teachers go about teaching the curriculum. However, there is a lot of debate around the curriculum primarily about the shape of the curriculum and the context of the subjects. I think that because of this debate, that is what makes education so political; nobody can decide on what or how to teach. Everyone has different skill sets, desires, expectations, etc. and to fulfill everybody’s needs and wants is impossible. One of the big influences of curriculum decisions is student assessment policies. This information shows how important getting good or high grades is in schools. If a student is not doing well, then the subject should not be taught. This idea is problematic because it ignores the other social contexts in the school such as what if the teacher was comfortable teaching the subject at hand, what if the students did not get the required support that they needed, what if the students were not motivated to learn?

What New Information/Perspectives Have I Learnt about the Development and Implementation of School Curriculum:

Something new that I learnt from the article is that curriculum processes (i.e. review or renewal) can take several years to complete from start to finish. Personally, I think that the process takes too long and will negatively impact the student if, for example, there is something wrong with the curriculum and it takes years to get it fixed. Some examples of issues could be if the curriculum is too demanding and students feel that they are being worked too hard, if the curriculum neglects the diverse group of student bodies in schools some students could feel oppressed, and if the curriculum is too easy then students will not be motivated to learn.

I was also shocked about the little role research plays in designing the curriculum. Instead, a lot of focus is placed on what people believe. I do not think that a belief counts as knowledge. You do not know if a belief is true until you test it out. In other words, some beliefs are not true or you could be falsely led to believe something. Furthermore, going back to how long it takes to make a change or revise the curriculum, it may be unwise to put a belief in the curriculum for fear of it not working and all the effort that is needed to remove or change it from the curriculum. That is why I think one will have more success in creating the curriculum if they use evidence and facts of what works and what does not work.

What Surprised/Concerned Me:

It surprised me that when the curriculum is being developed, it is not designed for ordinary teachers. If teachers cannot teach the curriculum properly, then that puts the students’ education at risk. Those students who may need extra help cannot get it because the teachers do not know what they are doing. The students who are good at quickly picking up material or who are good at teaching themselves are more likely to succeed. This flaw in the curriculum will also cause a lot of parent or student complaints and teachers and/or schools will feel pressured. Why would people design a curriculum that not all teachers can teach? I am glad that we are starting to move away from these policies and having an “open gathering” to create the curriculum instead.


Levin, B. (2008). Curriculum policy and the politics of what should be learned in schools. In F. Connelly, M. He & J. Phillion (Eds.), The SAGE handbook of curriculum and instruction (pp. 7 – 24). Los Angeles, CA: Sage.

One thought on “What Defines the Curriculum?

  1. Allicia, I do agree with you that it is a little absurd that it can take many years to create a new curriculum, and how that can be difficult when there is an issue in the current curriculum that needs attention now. However, I also think that it might be good that the people creating the curriculum are taking so much time to make sure that it is as good as it can be before releasing it to teachers and to students. I definitely think that there should be a middle ground in terms of how long a new curriculum when it comes to changes that might be more pressing than just an update.
    Thanks for your post!


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