Curriculum Development in Education

Curriculum Development in Education

The term curriculum refers to the lessons and academic content taught in a school or in a specific course or program. In dictionaries, the curriculum is often defined as the courses offered by a school, but it is rarely used in such a general sense in schools. Depending on how broadly educators define or employ the term, curriculum typically refers to the knowledge and skills students are expected to learn, which includes the learning standards or learning objectives they are expected to meet; the units and lessons that teachers teach; the assignments and projects given to students; the books, materials, videos, presentations, and readings used in a course; and the tests, assessments, and other methods used to evaluate student learning. An individual teacher’s curriculum, for example, would be the specific learning standards, lessons, assignments, and materials used to organize and teach a particular course.

Definitions of Curriculum Development

The curriculum has its origin in the running/chariot tracks of Greece. It was, literally, a course. In Latin curriculum was a racing chariot; the cure was to run.

The curriculum is defined as “All the learning which is planned and guided by the school, whether it is carried on in groups or individually, inside or outside the school (Kelly 1999).”

Oluoch (2006) explains curriculum as all that is planned to enable the student to acquire and develop desired knowledge, skills, and attitudes.

Saylor and Alexander (1974) define curriculum as a set of learning activities and experiences for children planned by the school to attain the aims of education.

Need and importance of curriculum development

  • Curriculum development is a purposeful activity.

  • It is undertaken to design or redesign for the realization of certain specific educational objectives.

  • The curriculum is the heart of the student’s college/school experience.

  • The curriculum should be reviewed and revised on a regular basis so that it is able to serve the changing needs of both students and society.

  • The following points iterate the needs and importance of curriculum development.


  1. Clear purpose and goals:-  Curriculum construction provide written curricular goals which are nothing but intended student development outcomes. These goals and objectives are specified in considerable detail and in behavioral language.

  1. Continuous assessment and improvement of quality:- Valid and reliable assessment of curriculum is necessary. The curriculum followed by an institution should be reviewed regularly in order to maintain its effectiveness in regard to changing needs of society as a whole.

  1. A rational sequence:- In a curriculum educational activities are carefully ordered in a developmental sequence. This developmental sequence helps to form a well-planned (or coherent)curriculum based on the intended goals and outcomes of the curriculum and its constituent courses.

  1. Making strategy in teaching and learning:- Curriculum development helps in suggesting suitable teaching-learning strategies, teaching methods, instructional materials, etc. It helps in providing for the proper implementation of the curriculum on the part of teachers and learners.

  1. Helps in the selection of learning experiences:- Curriculum development is needed for the appropriate selection and organization of learning experiences. It helps in the selection of study matter and other activities so that learners are able to acquire the goals and objectives of teaching.

  1. The process of curriculum development is needed for conceptualizing a curriculum in terms of the determination of educational objectives for teaching-learning at a particular grade of school education.

  2. Helps in a continuous and comprehensive education

Types of Curriculum

Andrew (2005) identified four types of curricula, namely;

a) Official Curriculum: This refers to a planned course of study that has been adopted by the government e.g. the Kenya Institute of Education has a curriculum for – ECDE

-Primary Education

-Secondary Education

It is sometimes known as the national curriculum that guides the production of educational material in a country.

b) Hidden Curriculum: This consists of all that is learned during school activities, out of the designated official curriculum. These includes:

– How learners should sit

– How to greet the teacher

– Role of the teacher and perfect

– How to relate with the teachers, fellow students, and other people at school.

– Values such as hard work, respect, obedience, cooperation, value for others, empathy etc.

c) Observed Curriculum: refers to the curriculum that can be used in the teaching-learning process in class. The observed curriculum may differ in terms of teaching methods and strategies employed by the teacher in class.

d) Curriculum as experienced: which refers to children’s experience in the teaching-learning process


New Cambridge Advanced learners’ dictionary (2003) defines a syllabus as “a plan with subjects to be studied in a course.” It is an outline or other brief statement of the main points of a discourse, the subjects of a course of lecturers, the contents of a curriculum, etc.

It outlines the goals and objectives of a course, prerequisites, the grading/evaluation scheme, materials to be used (textbooks, software), topics to be covered, a schedule, and a bibliography.

A syllabus can be said to be a plan with subjects to be studied in a course by a particular group of people (learners) within a given period of time. This places the syllabus at a very important position of breaking down the curriculum for its effective and efficient implementation.


A subject can be defined as a specific area of knowledge that is studied in a school, college, or any learning institution. E.g. of subjects (1) Igbo, Mathematics, English, Chemistry, Physics, Biology, Computer, etc.

Curriculum Development

Curriculum development is the process of creating curriculum materials for use by educators and children that are products of curriculum planning. It is difficult to give a definition for curriculum development because it will always be affected very strongly by the context in which it takes place. We can think of curriculum development as a continuous process, which is relevant to the situation where it takes place, and flexible, so you can adapt it over time.

Curriculum development describes all the ways in which a training or teaching organization plans and guides learning. This learning can take place in groups or with individual learners. It can take place inside a classroom or outside a classroom. It can take place in an institutional setting like a school, college or training center, or in a village or a field. It is central to the teaching and learning process. (Rogers and Taylor) 1988).

Typically, curriculum development involves four main elements.

(i) Identify what learning is needed and decide on the type of training you need to provide to meet these learning needs.

(ii) Plan the training carefully, so that learning is most likely to take place.

(iii) Deliver the training so that learning does take place.

(iv) Evaluate the training so that there is evidence that learning has taken place. Curriculum Development involves the sum total of all the processes which determine how curriculum construction proceeds, from the conceptualization stage to the evaluation stage.

Curriculum development may entail re-writing or reviewing the existing curriculum or a total overhaul or writing a completely new curriculum and developing new materials. A good example is when there was a change in the education system in Nigeria from 6-3-3-4 to 9-3-4.

Elements/Components of the Curriculum

Elements/components are the basic principles of the curriculum. The nature of the elements and the manner in which they are organized may comprise what we term curriculum design.


1. Aims of Education

The term aims is often used interchangeably with the terms, goals, ends, functions, general objectives, and purposes. However, there are differences between them.

2. Goals of Education

At a lower level than aims are curriculum goals to guide the educational planners in the task of curriculum planning.

3. Objective of Education

Within the context of educational aims and goals, objectives are formulated. They indicate in more specific terms the outcomes of the curriculum or project being considered.


Curriculum content or subject matter

Saylor (1981) defined content as those facts, observations, data, perceptions, discernments, sensibilities, designs, and solutions drawn from what the minds of men have comprehended from experience and those constructs of the minds that reorganize and those construct of the minds that reorganize and re-arrange these products of experience into the lore, ideas, concepts, generalizations, principles, and solutions.


Curriculum experience/learning experience.

It answers- what instructional strategies – resources and activities will be employed. Instructional strategies and methods are the core of the curriculum. These instructional strategies and methods will put into action the goals and use of the content in order to produce an outcome.


Curriculum Evaluation

Evaluation is a process or cluster of processes that people perform in order to gather data that will enable them to decide whether to accept, change, or eliminate something. i.e. the curriculum in general or an educational textbook in particular.

Determinants of Educational Objectives

1) The Contemporary Society

This comprises the demands of culture, the general social setups, and lifestyle, including all the social institutions. From all these, we can determine the needs of society.

The school owes its existence to society, it is considered the ultimate source of ideas for the curriculum.

We look at the issues and problems facing society; environmental issues, cultural issues, social economic issues, and all of these are included in the curriculum.

2) The Local Environment

The immediate environment of schools, including the pupils' homes, will provide us with further ideas for possible objectives. Knowledge of the socio-economic and physical situation of school surroundings, and the attitude towards education of the pupil’s sub-culture can help us to determine the objectives of education.

3) The Learner

Societal needs should not blind us to the individuality of the pupils.

Pupils are independent entities with their own needs, interests, and aspirations which must receive special attention when we are formulating objectives.

4) The School Itself

Curriculum implementation is a controlled interaction between students, teachers, time, space, facilities, materials and equipment, content, and learning activities.

All these will have some influence on objectives and have therefore to be considered while formulating objectives.

The school climate, the attitude of the teachers, the attitudes of the learners and their relationship with them could exert significant influence on the curriculum.

Bound up in all this, is the teacher’s own philosophy of education; what he holds as priorities in education.

5) Knowledge

There is an influx of knowledge and it is only fair that we look at the school disciplines or the nature of the subject matter and the types of learning that can arise from a study of the subject matter. Meaningful objectives are formulated in light of the available knowledge because to achieve any objective there must be a positive interaction between the learner and some kind of knowledge.

It is necessary to avoid formulating objectives that cannot be achieved because of the absence of appropriate knowledge content. It is also here that we need the advice of the subject specialist on the value and application of knowledge in their subject areas.



6) Philosophy

To select a few but highly important and consistent objectives, it is necessary to screen further heterogeneous collections of objectives in order to eliminate those that are unimportant and contradictory.

The education and social philosophy of the community can serve as a useful screen for e.g. when we talk of the good life or a good society there are values that go with such life or society.

Only those objectives that address such values will stand. The rest will have to be excluded.

7) Psychology

The psychology of learning which includes theories both of learning and child development forms an important screen or source for selecting objectives.

Educational objectives are educational ends or results to be achieved through learning, so those ends must be in conformity with conditions intrinsic to learning if at all they are going to be achievable and worthwhile.

National Goals of Education

These are the educational aspirations of a country. They are broad and long-term. National goals are further formulated into level and subject general objectives.

The specific objectives are formulated through which the desired knowledge, skills, attitudes, and practices will be achieved.

Foundations of Curriculum

The Foundation of the curriculum is defined as the values, traditions, factors, and forces that influence the kind, quantity, and quality of the experience the school offers its learners.

There are four major foundations of curriculum. These are:

i) Historical foundations

ii) Sociological foundations

iii) Philosophical foundations

iv) Psychological foundations

v) professional foundations

The curriculum scholars have professional foundations which have a lot in common with the social foundations.

1. Historical foundations of curriculum

These refer to those influences on the curriculum that are derived from developments in the past. They form the basis for decision-making and systematic growth of the education system.

2. Sociological foundations of curriculum

The social foundations encompass the systematic study of groups and institutions in the culture with reference to their contribution to the process and growth of the educational system as well as the established practices in the school system.

3. Philosophical foundations of curriculum

Philosophical or value foundations constitute the values and beliefs that make up the philosophies of life and of education and have a permeating influence on the other foundations.

4. Psychological foundations of curriculum

These are insights gained from psychology that have a bearing on the learning process.

Psychologists believe that learning experiences have to be introduced to the learner when such exposure is most effective and beneficial to him.

Curriculum Models

What is a model? It is a three-dimensional representation of a person or thing or of a proposed structure, typically on a small scale than the original.

  • Curriculum models are based on a body of theory about teaching and learning.

  • They are targeted to the needs and characteristics of a particular group of learners.

  • They outline approaches, methods, and procedures for implementation.

  • Curriculum development theories and models provide concepts, issues, explanations, proportions, and frameworks that give curriculum development directions.

In Conclusion

So curriculum development is an ongoing, dynamic process with a focus on the individual student’s success and a scope broad enough to accommodate progress in basic science and technology as well as changes in culture, politics, and the environment. In the iterative process of curriculum development, the design and implementation of the curriculum are preceded by the analysis of current conditions and followed by evaluation.


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