Curriculum – Not a Goal in Itself, But a Means to Achieve the Goal

Dr. V.K. Maheshwari, Former Principal

K.L.D.A.V(P.G) College, Roorkee, India

“The curriculum is the tool in the hands of the artist (the teacher) to mould his material (the pupil) according to his ideal (objective) in his studio (the school).” Cunningham


Education is a tri-polar process, in which on the one end is the teacher ,on the second is the student and on the third is the curriculum .In fact ,the curriculum is the central point of the entire formal educational process. If education is accepted as the teaching-learning process, then both teaching and learning take place through the curriculum.

The Concept of Curriculum

Etymologically the term ‘curriculum ’has been derived from the Latin word ‘currere’ which means race course .Thus ,the term ‘curriculum’ has the  sense of competition and achievement of goal inherent in it.

Curriculum as total environment: The most comprehensive concept of curriculum is given by those who conceive it as  the total environment of the school. In the words of H.L. Caswell, “The curriculum is all that goes on in the lives of the children, their parents and their teachers. The curriculum is made up of everything that surrounds the learner in all his working hours.” In fact, the curriculum has been described as “the environment in motion.” Actually  the term must be  comprehended in  more liberal sense, because there is no questioning on  the fact that the child’s education is influenced,  not only by  books but the playground, library, laboratory, reading room, co-curricular programmes, the educational environment, and a host of other factors also. In the school, both the educator and the educand are integral  part of the curriculum because they are part of the same environment. In the words of Bent and Kronenburg , “Curriculum, in its broadest sense, includes the complete school environment, involving all the courses, activities, reading and associations furnished to the pupils in the school.”

Organized form of subject-matter: Curriculum is the organized form of subject-matter, specially prepared to experiences and activities which provide the student with the knowledge and the skill he will require in facing the various situations in real life. Obviously, the term ‘curriculum’ cannot be restricted to the  list of books only, as it also include other activities which provide the student  the knowledge and the skill he will require in facing the various situations of life. Hence, now curriculum includes numerous other elements not taught by books.

Curriculum as a comprehensive  experience: In the words of Munroe, “Curriculum embodies all the experiences which are utilized by the school to attain the aims of education.” Thus, the various subjects included for study in a curriculum are not intended merely for study or rote learning but to convey experiences- of various kinds .Curriculum does not mean only the academic subject traditionally taught it the school, but it includes the totality of experiences that a pupil receives through the manifold activities that go on in the school in the classroom, library, laboratory, workshop, playground and in  numerous informal contacts between teachers and  students.

The curriculum includes all the learner’s experiences in or outside school. The experiences which has been devised to help him develop mentally, physically, emotionally, socially, spiritually and morally.” it is obvious,  that, the aim of curriculum is to provide experience to the educand so that he may achieve complete development. By calling the curriculum an experience, the fact is made explicit that it includes not merely books, but all those activities and relationship which are indulged in by the educand, both inside and outside the school.

Curriculum is not an end in itself, but a means to an end. Curriculum is a means or tool. It is apparent from the above referred definitions that  it is created –  to achieve the aims of education. That is why, different educationists have suggested different kinds of curricula in accordance  to the aims and objectives ascribed to education; Explaining the concept of curriculum as a tool of education, Cunningham writes, “The curriculum is the tool in the hands of the artist (the teacher) to mould his material (the pupil) according to his ideal (objective) in his studio (the school).” Here the educator is compared to an artist and the curriculum as one of the instruments of tools used by him to develop the educand according to, and in conformity with the aims of education. It is evident that the curriculum will continue to  change with every change in the aims of education.


The curriculum may be defined as the totality of subject ‘matter, activities, and experience which constitute a pupil’s school life.” Curriculum includes all activities Elaborating the same concept further, H.H. Horne says, “The curriculum is that which the pupil is taught. It involves more than the acts of learning and quiet study, it involves occupations, production, achievements, exercise, activity. “Pragmatists, too, have included the entire range of the educand’s activities in the curriculum because according to them, the child learns by doing.

In the light of the various definitions of curriculum given it is possible to arrive at a definition of the term which includes all the points mentioned in these definitions. Briefly, then, curriculum is the means of achieving the goals of education . It includes all those . experience activities and environments which the educand receives during his educational career. Such a definition of curriculum comprehends the educand’s entire life, a contention born out by all modern educationists who believe that .the child learns not only inside the school, but also outside it, on the playground, at home, in society, in fact, every where. That is why, there is  so much insistence on the participation of the parents in the child’s education and  not restricting  the curriculum to the school environment only, but taking it to every possible kind of environment encountered by the child. Besides, it includes all those activities which the child does, irrespective of the time and place of these activities. It also includes the entire range of experiences that the child has in the school, at home,and in the world at large. Considering from this liberal standpoint, one finds that in preparing the curriculum one has much wider background than would otherwise be possible.

The Purpose of Curriculum

Clarifying the  purpose of curriculum, it has been pointed out in the report of the Secondary Education Commission( 1952-53 India) that, “The starting point for curricular reconstruction must, therefore, be the device to bridge the gulf between the school subjects and to enrich the varied activities that make up the warp and woof of life.” Hence, the curricular should be so designed that it strains the educand to face the situations of real life, a curriculum can be said to have the following major purposes

Synthesis of subjects and life. The aim of the curriculum is to arrange and provide those subjects for an edueand’s study, which will enable the educand to destroy any gulf between school life and life  outside  the  school.

Harmony between individual and activity: In a democracy, such social qualities as social skills, cooperation, the desire to be of service, sympathy, etc, are very significant because without them, no society can continue to exist. On the other hand, development of the individual’s own character and personality are also very important. Hence, the curriculum must create an environment and provide those books which enable the individual to achieve his own development at the same time as he learns these social qualities.

Development of democratic values: In all democratic countries, the curriculum of education must aim to develop the democratic values of equality, liberty and fraternity, so that the educands may develop into a fine democratic citizens. But this development should not only aim at national benefit.In this age of globalization, the curriculum must also aim to introduce a spirit of internationalism in the educand.

Satisfaction of the educand’s need: In defining curriculum, many educationists have insisted that it must be designed to satisfy the needs and requirements of the educand. It is seen that one finds a great variety of interests, skills, abilities, attitudes, aptitudes,’ etc., among educands. A curriculum, should be so designed as to satisfy the general and specific requirements of the educands.

Realization of values: One aim of education is development of good ethical values, -and what is required for this is to create in the educand a faith in the various desirable values. Hence, one of the objectives of education is to create in the educand a definite realization for the prevailing system of values.

Development of knowledge and enrichment in knowledge: In its most common connotation, the term curriculum is taken as  a means for the development of knowledge or acquisition  of facts .This is the aspect which should be kept in mind while designing a curriculum. It is the most fundamental objective of a curriculum.

In the contemporary educational patterns that curriculum is believed to the suitable which can create a harmony between the various branches of knowledge so that the educand’s attitude should be comprehensive and complete, not one sided.

Creation of a useful environment: Another objective of curriculum is to create an environment suitable to the educand. Primarily the environment must assist the educand in achieving the maximum possible development of his faculties, abilities and capabilities.

Principles of Curriculum  Construction

Different educationists have expressed their own views about the fundamental principles of curriculum construction, the difference being created by their different philosophies of education. Briefly, the main principles of curriculum construction are as follows:

Principle of utility: T.P. Nunn, the educationist, believes that the principle of utility is the most important underlying principle for  the formation of a curriculum. He writes, “While the plain man generally likes his children to pick up some scraps of useless learning for purely decorative purpose, he requires, on the whole, that they shall be taught what will be useful to them in later life, and he is inclined to give ‘useful’ a raher strict interpretation.” As a general rule, parents are in favour of including all those subjects in the curriculum which are likely to prove useful for their child in his life, and by means of which he can be a responsible member of society.

Principle of Training in the proper patterns of conduct: According to Crow and Crow, the main principle underlying the construction of a curriculum is that, through education the educand should be able to adopt the behaviour patterns appropriate to different circumstances. Man is a social animal who has to adapt himself constantly  to the social environment. Therefore, education must aim at developing all these qualities in the educand which will facilitate this adaptation to the social milieu. The child is by nature self-centred, but education must teach him to attend the needs and requirements of others besides himself. One criterion of an educated individual is that he should be able to adapt himself to different situations with which he is comforted. In his context, the term conduct must be understood in its widest sense. “All our activities in social, economic, family and cultural environment constitute behaviour or conduct, and it is the function of education of teach us how he behaves in different situation.”

Principle of Synthesis of play and work. Of the various modern techniques of education, some try to educate through work and others through play. But a great majority of educationists agree that the curriculum should aim at achieving a balance between play and work. In other words, the work given to the educand should be performed in such a manner that the child may feel it as play. There is a difference between work and play. That is why, parents want to engage the child in work instead of allowing him to play all the time, but the child is naturally inclined to spend his time in playing. Keeping this in view, T.P. Nunn has written, “The school should be thought of not as a knowledge-monger’s shop, but a place where the young are disciplined in certain forms of activity. All subjects should be taught; in the ‘play way’ care being taken that the ‘way’ leads continuously from the irresponsible frolic of childhood to the disciplined labours of manhood.”

Principle of Synthesis of all activities of life. In framing a curriculum, attention should be paid to the inclusion, in it, of all the various activities of life, such as contemplation, learning, acquisition of various kinds of skill, etc. In the individual and social sphere of life, every individual has to perform a great variety of activities, and the success in life is determined by the success of all these activities. ‘Hence, the curriculum should not neglect any form of activity related to any aspect of life. A curriculum constructed on this basis will be both comprehensive and closely related to life. In other words, it should include all the activities that educand is likely to require in later life.

Principle of individual differences.  Educational psychology has stressed the significance of individual differences that exist between one individual and another. It is discovered that people differ in respect of their mental processes, interests, aptitudes, attitudes, abilities, skills, etc., and these differences are innate. The entire education is peado- centric that is, it is centred around the ‘child. Psychologists insist that the curriculum should be so designed as to provide an opportunity for complete and comprehensive development to widely differing individuals. One of the basic qualities of such a curriculum is flexibility; for it must be flexible, in order to accommodate, educands of low,  average or high intelligence and ability, and to provide each one a chance to develop all his personality to the greatest possible extent.

Principle of Conteneous development.  Another basis for curriculum construction is the principle , based on the realization that no curriculum can prove adequate for all times and in all places. For this reason, the  should be flexible and changeable. This is all the more true in the modern context when new discoveries in the various branches of science are taking place everyday. Hence, it becomes necessary to reshape the curriculum fairly,and  frequently  to incorporate the latest developments.

Principle of Creative training. Another important principle of curriculum construction is that of creative training. Raymont has correctly stated that a curricuhm appropriate for the needs of today and of future must definitely have a positive bias towards creative subjects. as, one of the aim of education is to develop the creative faculty of the educand. All that is finest in human culture is the creation of man’s creative abilities. Children differ from other in respect of this ability. Hence, in framing the  curriculum, attention must be paid to this fact that it should encourage each educand to develop his creative ability as far as  possible.

Principle of Variety. Variety is another important principle of curriculum construction. The innate complexity make it necessary that the .curriculum should be varied, because no single type of curriculum can develop all the  facilities of an individual. Hence, at every level the curriculum must have variety, it will, on  one hand, provide an opportunity for the development of the different faculties of the educand, and on the other hand, opportunity to  retain his interest in education.

Principle of Education for leisure. One of the objective ascribed to education is training for  leisure, because it is believed that education is not merely for employment or work. Hence, it is desirable that the curriculum should also include a training in those activities which will make the individual’s leisure more pleasurable. A great variety of social, artistic and sporting activities can be included in this kind of training. Educands should be encouraged to foster some of the other  conative and psychomotor hobbies,  so that they can put their leisure to constructive and pleasant use.

Principle of Related to community life. Curriculum can also be based on the principle that school and community life must be intimately related to each there. One cannot forget that the school is only a miniature form of soctety. Thus, the school curriculum should include all those activate which are performed by members of larger community outside the boundaries of the school. This will help in evolving social qualities in the individual,and  in developing the social aspect of his personality  and finally, in helping his final adaptation to the social environment  into which he will ultimately go.

Principle of Evolution of democratic values. The construction of a curriculum in a democratic society is conditioned by the need to develop democratic qualities in the individual. The curriculum should be, so dogged that it develops a democratic feeling and creates a positive attitude in democratic values. The progrmmes devise in the college can provide opportunities  to the educand  that he may be able to participate usefully and successfully in democratic life. In all the democratic societies of the world, this is the chief consideration in shaping the curriculum for primary, secondary and higher education.

Curriculum Assessment

There are three forms of curriculum assessment , Formative Assessment, Summative Assessment and Developmental Assessment.

Formative Assessment and Summative Assessment.-Formative assessment made in a situation when the curriculum is answerable to the public. Assessment in such a situation must ensure objectivity, credibility and relevance. To ensure these, it follows the set standardized norms/ procedures of test construction, administration and interpretation. Informal assessment is applicable to situations where an individual or a voluntary body  assess the curriculum to obtain some information to fulfill some personal requirements. The informal assessment also needs to be objective and reliable, but the evaluator is not bound to satisfy about these qualities of his assessment. Hence, the process of assessment need not follow the set procedures of evaluation.

Formative assessment is concerned with identifying learner weaknesses in attainment. In order to help the learner and the teacher overcome/remedy, Summative assessment aims at certifying and grading the attainment of the learner at the end of a given course.

Tests for formative assessment are given at regular and frequent intervals during a course, while the tests for summative assessment are given at the end of a course or at the end of a fairly long period, say a term or a semester or a year. In a course that extends over six months, a test at the end of say, every fortnight will be a formative test, while the test at the end of the six months will be summative.

The level of generalisation sought by the items of a summative test will be more higher as compared to that sought by the items of a formative test. For instance, if the items of a formative test check the ability to apply a given rule or principle to a given unfamiliar situation, the items in a summative test may check the ability to apply one or more to the appropriate rules/principles from among the many given in a variety of situations.

The functions of formative and summative assessments are different. Formative assessment includes tests and other forms of measurement intended to give a measure or of success of the parts of a curriculum even when the curriculum is  in the process of development. Summative evaluation includes such forms of measurement that would give a measure of success of the course as a whole.

Developmental Assessment. Besides formative assessment and summative assessement in education, yet another term is also  in use. It is ‘Development assessment”. Used in the context of curriculum development, it refers to the evaluation of the preliminary versions of curriculum with representative sample of learners. It is generally treated as a part of the curriculum development schedule. Formative assessment in this context refers to the evaluation of a course made with larger group of learners. The purpose of such assessment is not to help the process of curriculum development but to help the activities of maintenance and revision of curriculum already developed.

Criteria for Curriculum Evaluation

The review of literature related to curriculum indicates that there are four major criteria for assessing the workability of the curriculum.

Subject-Content. Various subjects are included in the curriculum, such as-Hindi, English, Sanskrit, History, Geography, Social Science, Physical Sciences, Bio-science, Home science, Mathematics .Economics, Psychology, Sociology, Physical education, Art, and Drawing etc. The structure of content of these subjects is determined for the curriculum development.

Experiences. The curriculum provides the following type of experiences to the students, social, historical, geographical (time and place sense), physical, political, civics senses, religious, spiritual and reactive experiences, expression of ideas facts and events.

Skills. Curriculum provides the situations for developing skills or psychomotor actives-languages reading, writing, speaking, observations, perception, use of different type, instrument in the workshops and field works, communications skills, craft work, and verbal and non-verbal communication skills. It is related to psychomotor objectives.

Attitude and Values. Curriculum provides the experiences for developing affective domain of the learners. The feeling, beliefs, attitudes and values are developed. It develops self-confidence, honesty, sensitivity sincerity, morality, objectivity, character and adjustment.

Critical Appraisal of Existing Syllabus

The concept of curriculum is very wide and extensive. It includes all those experiences which a student gets in the aegis of the school. It includes all academic and co-curricular activities inside and outside the classroom. The curriculum can be understood in the form of activity and experience.

The term ‘syllabus’ is often used in the sense of the term ‘curriculum’. In fact, the subject  matter for an intellectual subject is called content. When this content is organized in view of teaching in the classroom, this is called syllabus.

Thus, the syllabus presents the definite knowledge regarding the amount of knowledge to be given to students during the course of teaching of different subjects; while the curriculum is totality of educational activities, the teacher would complete .

Teaching can be made more effective if a  teacher is fully satisfied with the curriculum which he has to teach. Also, he should know its utility. It can be possible only when he studies the prevalent syllabus critically. It should be fully clear to him that each subject has certain specific aims, which his  students have to achieve. A teacher should examine these aims and how they can be achieved on the basis of the present syllabus.

From this view, the prevalent syllabus following are the bases for its critical appraisal :

Syllabus in Relation to Objectives : The syllabus is a means to attain the objectives. If aims and means are not in consonance, then the desirable outcomes would only be a pipedream. The utility of the syllabus depends on the fact whether the topics included in it are helpful in the realization of the concerned teaching objectives. In this context, it would be necessary to evaluate the syllabus. The following table can be used

Selection of Organization of Syllabus : The selection of syllabus is the second most important test on the basis of which critical analysis should be conducted. The details of syllabus organisation has been given in the preceding chapters, which can be used in the following table beneficially:

Comprehensiveness of Syllabus : The selection of the syllabus should be as per the level of students. So, the subject matter included in the topics should be neither floating nor deep.

Comprehensiveness is a qualitative concept. So, it will have to be evaluated in a relative manner. For it, a rating scale will have to be used. If common analysis has to be conducted, then the three-point rating scale should be used, and if more intensive study has to be carried out, then five-point rating scale should be desirable.

Data in the above table can be given numerical value in order to calculate comprehensiveness of the syllabus, (for it, all tallies of most comprehensive should be multiplied by 5, very comprehensive by 4, comprehensive by 3, less comprehensive by 2 and not comprehensive by 1, and thus calculate relative comprehensiveness.

Theoretical, Practical or Both : Both theoretical and practical aspects of science are equally important. If the syllabus is only theoretical, it would make the syllabus bookish and abstract. Due to this, the content in different topics would have to be analysed to see how much theoretical aspect it contains and what practical possibilities exist in it. This can be analysed objectively as follows :

Examination-centered : For both students and teachers, the importance of a topic is determined on the basis of its importance in the examinations. The amount of emphasis of a topic varies with the value of the topic from examination viewpoint for both teachers and students. It has influenced to such extent that the number of marks allotted for each topic are given in the syllabus itself. The analysis of examination effect can be done by the following table :

Child-centered : The syllabus should not only be meant for common students, but it should have due provisions for talented and backward students also. The syllabus should be analyzed from this viewpoint also.

The focal point of the syllabus should be the student. The syllabus should be selected keeping in view the age, previous knowledge, interest, aptitude, needs etc. of students. It should be found out the importance given to these factors in the syllabus. It would only be possible to evaluate its utility for students.

Correlation: Because a student attains knowledge as a whole unit, so the importance of science being related with other subjects, its influence or other subjects and influence of other subjects on it cannot be ignored. Therefore, it should be known whether the form of syllabus is partial or not, which can be done on the basis of the following table:

For Future Education: The syllabuses for the secondary level and higher education should be inter-connected, so that continuity of knowledge can be maintained. The syllabus should be analyzed on this basis by which it can be ascertained which topics can form the basis for future higher education, so that the capability of the syllabus in view of can be evaluated.

Although no one, and no teacher, can predict the future with any certainty, people in leadership capacities such as teachers are required to make guesses about the probable future and plan appropriately. Teachers therefore need to plan their curriculum according to the more likely future their students face while at the same time acknowledging that the students have a future. The competent leader cannot plan according to past successes, as if doing so will force the past to remain with him. The most competent leader and manager, in fact, is not even satisfied with thoughts of the future, but is never satisfied, always sure that whatever is being done can be improved.


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To Mrs. Anuja Rathi for being the editor of this article.

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