What Are The Characteristics Of A Good Curriculum For Schools?

Ask any parent what they want out of a school, and “a good curriculum ” is sure to top the list. But what really is a good curriculum; importantly how do you identify one? These are questions that are worth delving into.

What is a Curriculum?

The word “ curriculum” comes from the Latin word “currere” which literally means, “to run”. It refers to a racecourse or a runway, running on which helps one achieve one’s goal. Put in context, it, therefore, is the educational program that helps students achieve their goals.

While we may be conditioned to consider the curriculum as study material alone, seen in perspective, it refers to a series of potential experiences that are set up in educational institutes. These are a series of learning opportunities that are planned, which include both curricular & co-curricular activities. It is really the totality of what children learn; including through classroom activities, in the playground, at lunchtime, through sports, music & the like.

A curriculum is typically known to have 3 parts:

  • Knowledge- This largely refers to both theoretical & empirical knowledge
  • Skill- This refers to procedural knowledge
  • Values- This includes dispositional knowledge

It is how the curriculum integrates these three competencies that lead to a number of capabilities in children.

It is also important to remember that a good curriculum needs to inspire the process of individual development as well as that of socialization in order to lead to the holistic development of the student.

While that broadly defines a curriculum, it is important to know what quality means in the context of a curriculum.
Some useful indicators of a quality curriculum include:

  • Relevance
  • Consistency
  • Practicality
  • Effectiveness
  • Sustainability

Of course, a curriculum is not an end in itself. Rather, what it aims to do is to achieve worthwhile & useful learning outcomes that enable students to lead meaningful & productive lives. The success of the curriculum lies in how effectively students use the learning for their personal, social, moral, and emotional development.

That said let us look at some of the characteristics of a good curriculum in some detail:

Characteristics of a Good Curriculum

Is based on needs- A good curriculum is based on the needs of the individual as well as the society as a whole. It, therefore, offers age-appropriate & developmentally-appropriate material.

Is ever evolving- For a curriculum to be effective, it needs to undergo continuous monitoring & evaluation for it to evolve to the needs of the changing times.

It is developed democratically- For the curriculum to reflect the needs of the society at large, it needs to be conceived of democratically by individuals from different sectors who are knowledgeable & empathetic to the interests & needs of the learner & the society as a whole.

Involves a lot of planning- Needless to mention that the development of a curriculum that caters to the dynamic needs of society is the result of long-term efforts. It takes time & energy to plan, develop & manage an effective curriculum

Provides adequate time for learning- It offers enough time to understand key concepts. Additionally, it takes into account the fact that change in behavior requires sustained efforts.

It involves a number of complex details- Contrary to popular belief since the curriculum does not refer to study material alone but also to aspects such as the student-teacher relationship, projects, counseling, and more, there are a number of complex details that go into the making of a good curriculum in school.

Fosters positive behavior- An effective curriculum fosters attitudes and beliefs that support positive behavior. In fact, it ensures that the students have the capability to examine perspectives, arguments, and more and generate positive attitudes & values.

Allows for continuity of experience- It gradually builds the learning experience as the learner grows & develops. Progress is central to the curriculum & it allows sequential learning to take place.

Offers scope for the cultivation of unique skills, interests, and attitudes. In fact, an important aspect of a good curriculum in these radically changing times is the inclusion of life skills. In an increasingly VUCA world, it is important that the curriculum helps develop competencies in areas such as critical thinking, communication, problem-solving, creativity & more.

Needs to be psychologically sound- It needs to take into account the theories of learning as well as the different learning styles of learners. It, therefore, provides space for the teacher to adapt the curriculum to suit the needs of children. It does not demand that every child learns the same content in the same way. In fact, the teachers have the flexibility to ensure that the treatment of the subject is in keeping with the student’s needs. While some students may be skilled listeners, others may respond to visual stimulation & so forth. The teachers, therefore, adapt the subject as per the needs of the students to be able to achieve the best learning outcomes.

Needs to be balanced- The curriculum needs to give adequate emphasis on:

  • Traditional content- science, arts, humanities & more
  • Personal, social. Cognitive development of students
  • Knowledge, Skills & Values

Promotes integrated learning- It is important that besides teaching individual subjects, the curriculum also demonstrates connections between subjects and offer meaning & relevance. This can be done in many ways such as through grouping subjects into broader learning areas, offering challenges that require a multi-disciplinary response, overlaying subjects with learning themes, and more.

An important component of an effective curriculum beyond its development, of course, is also its implementation. Among other things, effective implementation of the curriculum at the outset involves having clear expectations from different stakeholders, namely students, teachers, the learning environment, parents as well as the education system. It is when the expectations are clearly defined that the implementation can be seamless.

What is a curriculum

What does a good curriculum in School ensure?

Developed and implemented in this manner, a good curriculum is known to:

Help in the realization of educational objectives and in the acquisition of knowledge, skill & attitude
Offer guidelines that ensure there is the optimal use of time & energy. It standardizes learning goals & creates shared goals between teachers & students.
Value each child & be underpinned by beliefs on how children learn. A good curriculum in school is therefore inclusive and assists all students regardless of their capabilities, and background & more and enables them to rise up to their full potential.

Importantly, therefore, a good curriculum creates:

Capable learners, who remain learners for life
Creative contributors who ensure meaningful contribution
Ethical Citizens
Confident Individuals

How does “Pragyanam” ensure holistic development for its students?

Cuningham defined Curriculum as “a tool in the hands of the artist (teacher) to mold his material (pupils) according to his ideas (aims and objectives) in his studio (school)”.

At Pragyanam School, we work with this belief that all children have limitless potential. A key aspect that enables us to develop students so that they are prepared for life, is to nurture 10 life skills recommended by World Health Organization. From teaching them critical thinking skills, and effective communication to coping with stress, we ensure that we prepare the child for the road ahead. In fact, “Pragyanam’ which means wisdom in Sanskrit, has been founded on the core belief that the objective of learning is to raise mindful and conscientious individuals who value competence over competitiveness and aspire to live a life of happiness and fulfillment. It is the fact that we are focused on the holistic development of the child, offering an integration of knowledge, skill & values, that the school is widely recognized by parents to be one of the top CBSE school in Gurgaon.

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June 2024