WHEN IS THE CURRICULUM CONTENT OF SOCIAL RELEVANCE – Essay by Grace C. Kapoma and Carol Namusokwe
It is impossible for an educational program to exist and progress smoothly without the existence of curriculum. A good Curriculum is a foundation for any developmental projects in the education system as it determines what should be learnt in addressing the needs and aspirations of the learners as well as the society. It is the total program of instruction offered by the school which includes the content and learning experiences or daily classroom practices centered on meeting the educational aims, goals and objectives. These learning experiences can take place within and outside the school environment as learners interact. Like many other concepts, curriculum has many definitions from different scholars and policy makers. However, it is not the focus of this paper to explore the definitions of curriculum. This paper is focusing on the stage at which one can consider the curriculum as being of social relevance to the society. It will start with a brief introduction and definition of some key terms and then proceed to the main body followed by a concise conclusion of the major issues emanating from the paper.
According to Child (1977), curriculum content is defined as what the teacher and the students pay attention to when they are teaching and learning. It is a list of subjects, topics, themes, concepts or works to be covered. It is the subject matter, process, approaches, and feelings used in teaching as the curriculum is being implemented. Curriculum content refer to what is taught in school, it is the subject matter or topics consisting facts, concepts, ideas, knowledge within a particular subject and how they will bring about change in the individual and to the society, (Urevbu, 1994). Kochhar, (2008:67) defines curriculum as “the instructional and educative program through which the pupils achieve their goals and aspirations of life”. The curriculum consists of components/elements such as the curriculum intent, content, learning activities, learning experiences and lastly evaluation. All these components of the curriculum are interrelated and important for an effective curriculum implementation.
2.0 When is curriculum content relevant to society?
The curriculum content is of social relevance when the learning experiences are related to the disciplines (subjects) taught in schools. The teacher needs to actively show the learners how different subject areas influence their lives, particularly the employment sector and in developing a sense of responsibility; the contents of the curriculum should provide learners with skills that will enable them find employment in society. The curriculum content is therefore relevant when the content consists of skills such as wood work, gardening or agriculture, home management and other practical subjects which will help learners get a self employed job after acquiring the skills and act responsibly to the needs and expectations of the society. Thus, this curriculum content is answering the need of employment. A relevant curriculum according to MOE (1996:55) “includes modules such as preparation for work, work experiences and entrepreneurship education which will develop pupils’ creative and innovative capacity, thereby to foster the skills and attributes which will assist them to be successful employees or employers or entrepreneurs in their own right”.
Curriculum content is of social relevance when it is integrated with current problems of society such as HIV/AIDS, drugs prevention, sex education and family life, (Urevbu, 1994). These aspects should be an integrated part of the public school in some areas of the country. For example, when issues of HIV/AIDS are integrated in the school curriculum it answers the health needs of a society as learner come to have knowledge about how best the disease can be prevented. On the other hand, when the curriculum content consists of drug prevention it helps reduce the effects of drugs on human beings because they come to know about the effects of drugs such as; a means for transmitting diseases if syringe are used. When learners are educated on this aspect they tend to be change in behavior in human beings; therefore, the curriculum should bring about change in behavior, attitude and value. It should develop the child as a whole.
The curriculum is of social relevance when it is related to the life needs of society. For instance, when subject such as civics are taught in schools and consists of political aspect of a particular country such as ways of electing a president, law and regulations of a country. The curriculum content should therefore, bring about social change in all angles of society. It should be an instrument for social change that is related to national integration, social justice as well as democratic values, (Kochhar, 2008). In addition, curriculum content is of social relevance through education when it answers the political violence which that country is facing.
On the other hand, the geography that was offered long ago was not of social relevance because its content consisted of farming system related to Canada which was not applicable the Zambian context. At present, the geography that is being taught in schools consists of content which is related to the activities of society such as fishing on Lake Tanganyika, agriculture practices on large and small scale farming. The content constitutes of local and regional aspects of geography which learners learn and apply in the immediate society.
Curriculum content is of social relevance when it is flexible that is; it can easily change with the changing society. This is so because the world is changing every day therefore, curriculum content should as well change from time to time so as to respond to the needs of a changing society. For example, the use of computer is becoming an essential aspect in the educational system; hence, content on computers should be included in the school curriculum because computer devices are being used for various purposes such as communication, and retrieval of information. At present, some schools in Zambia are meeting this need by offering lessons in computers; schools such as Ndola Girls Technical School are offering such subjects (computer studies) and pupils are examined. Curriculum content should therefore change so as to portend transformations in the near future, (www.literacynet.org/lp/namericans/curriculum.htm1).
On the other hand, the curriculum content is of social relevance when it responds to the culture of a given society or nation, that is when it includes culture norms and values of that society which give learners a sense of belonging. Curriculum content should therefore contain culturally relevant materials which include; formal curriculum materials, informal classroom materials, and classroom interactions. In this sense, culturally relevant materials enable diversity in learners so as to be more successful by contextualizing learning and making connections with home cultures, allowing for learning and development to be based on the students’ experiences and learning styles, and building cultural capital that allows each student to feel valued in the school environment, (Gay, 1999).
Additionally, the curriculum content is of social relevance when it provides adequate study of language especially local languages, (Kochhar, 2008). Language is very important for communication purposes hence the provision of official and local language in the curriculum content will help the learner communicate effectively outside the school environment. Furthermore, language also helps people later in life especially those who take journalism as their career will be at an advantage as they will find it easy to interact with the local community and get information which will solve a problem which that particular society is facing.
Curriculum content is of social relevance when it develops a critical conscious among children of the major issues of society and encourages students active role in improving the society they live in. For instance, when the curriculum content consists of issues such as global warming, air pollution and other issues which will make learners think critically why such issues exist and come up with solution. The learners play an active role in society when their behavior and attitudes changes and their actions and mind set influence the rest of the society.
Localization of the curriculum content answers the needs of that immediate society therefore if the curriculum content is of social relevance it must be localized. When the curriculum is localized it is of social relevance because it is meeting the need of that immediate society. For example, when a society whose main activity is poultry farming like in southern province of Zambia; It should have its content of the curriculum with poultry farming consisting of both the practical and theory part of learning experiences.
The curriculum content is the subject matter that is taught by the teacher; therefore, curriculum content is of social relevance when it is delivered by qualified or relevant human resource persons and has resources for teaching and learning available.
Summary of Curriculum Content and its Relevance
1. Curriculum Content
(That is what is taught. For example, Math, Home Management, Geography, Science, Religious Education and many other subjects)
2(a). Provides skills 2(b). Behavior and attitude
and knowledge change.
3(a) Meets the needs of society, such as 3(b) bring solution to
employment and health needs problems society is facing
and many more. such as pollution, global warming and many more.
In conclusion, curriculum content is relevant when it meets the need of a society such as unemployment; by teaching what is relevant or related to societal issues at hand through practical and theoretical concepts. Furthermore, the curriculum is of social relevance when it gives solutions to the problems of the society such as pollution, deforestation and many more. The curriculum content should therefore meet the needs of society in which it is being implemented. Curriculum content should be localized if it has to meet the need of the immediate society
Child, D. (1977). Psychology and the Teacher. 2nd Edition. Britain: Holt, Rinehart and Winston
Gay, G. (1999). Improving the Achievement of Marginalized Students of Color. In
“Including at-risk students in standards-based reform: A report on McREL’s
diversity roundtables II.” Available at:
Kochhar, S.K, (2008). Methods and Techniques of Teaching. 2nd Revised Edition. New
Dehli: Sterling Publishers Private, Limited.
Ministry of Education, (1996). Educating Our Future: National Policy on Education. Lusaka:
Zambia Educational Publishing House
Urevbu, A (1994). Curriculum Studies.2nd edition. Singapore: Longman Publishers.