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Core curriculum

The body of knowledge, skills and attitudes expected to be learned by all students, generally related to a set of subjects and learning areas that are common to all students, such as languages, mathematics, arts, physical education, science and social studies.

Competency-based curriculum

A curriculum that emphasizes the complex outcomes of a learning process (i.e. knowledge, skills and attitudes to be applied by learners) rather than mainly focusing on what learners are expected to learn about in terms of traditionally-defined subject content. In principle such a curriculum is learner-centred and adaptive to the changing needs of students, teachers and society. It implies that learning activities and environments are chosen so that learners can acquire and apply the knowledge, skills and attitudes to situations they encounter in everyday life. Competency-based curricula are usually designed around a set of key competences/competencies that can be cross-curricular and/or subject-bound.

Culturally responsive curriculum

A curriculum that respects learners’ cultures and prior experiences. It acknowledges and values the legitimacy of different cultures, not just the dominant culture of a society, and encourages intercultural understanding. It incorporates cultural aspects into the curriculum, rather than adding them on as an extra or separate module or course.

Cross-curricular approach

An approach to formulating curriculum that favours the dynamic use of learning topics and themes to be covered and skills/competencies to be developed in a number of learning areas across the curriculum.

Curriculum adaptation

A process of adjusting the existing curriculum to meet the diverse needs of learners of all abilities.

Curriculum aims/goals

Broad descriptions of purposes or ends stated in general terms without criteria of achievement or mastery. Curriculum aims or goals relate to educational aims and philosophy. They are programmatic and normally do not delineate the specific courses or specific items of content. Typically they refer to the accomplishment of groups (e.g. all learners, learners in general, most learners) rather than the achievement of individual learners. They are broad enough to lead to specific curriculum objectives. Examples include: ‘students will learn to respect and get along with people of different cultures’; ‘students will develop a sense of civic responsibility’; ‘students will attain an appreciation for literature, art, music’.

Curriculum alignment

A process aimed at ensuring coherence and consistency between the intended outcomes as specified in the formal curriculum and teaching methods, assessment tasks, and learning activities in the classroom.

Curriculum change

Modifications introduced in the curriculum to improve or adapt it to new circumstances or priorities. This can be done through: minor adjustments that do not affect the curriculum structure; modernization to ensure that the curriculum remains current and relevant, reflects new developments in society and adequately prepares learners for life; innovation that brings new approaches and solutions; and large scale, system-wide reform that entirely reshapes the existing curriculum.

Curriculum alignment

A process aimed at ensuring coherence and consistency between the intended outcomes as specified in the formal curriculum and teaching methods, assessment tasks, and learning activities in the classroom.

Curriculum coherence

A characteristic of curriculum indicating the extent to which the curriculum aims and content, as well as textbooks, teaching methods, and assessment are all aligned and reinforce one another. Some research findings suggest that a high level of curriculum coherence is associated with high performing systems. (Adapted from: Oates 2010).

Curriculum design

The process of meaningfully constructing and interconnecting the components of a curriculum so as to address such fundamental questions as what needs to be learned and how and why, the resources required and how learning will be assessed.

Curriculum development

The process of designing the national, local or school curriculum. In order to produce a quality curriculum, this process should be planned and systematic. It should value the input of stakeholders and also cater for sustainability and long-term impact. In contemporary educational practice curriculum development is seen as a comprehensive cycle of development, implementation, evaluation and revision to ensure that the curriculum is up-to-date and relevant.

Curriculum differentiation

The process of modifying or adapting the curriculum according to the different ability levels of the learners in the classroom. It is a strategy that teachers can use with a view to providing meaningful learning experiences for all learners. Differentiation takes account of learner differences and matches curriculum content and teaching and assessment methods to learning styles and learner needs and characteristics. It may focus on input, task, outcome, output, response, resources or support.

Curriculum evaluation

The process of measuring and judging the extent to which the planned courses, programmes, learning activities and opportunities as expressed in the formal curriculum actually produce the expected results. If carried out effectively, this process can enable decisions to be made about improvements and future progress.

Curriculum framework

An overarching document that fulfills some or all of the following: places national statements of vision, economic development and education policy in a curriculum context; sets out broad aims and objectives of the curriculum at the various stages of schooling; explains the educational philosophy underlying the curriculum and approaches to teaching, learning and assessment that are fundamental to that philosophy; outlines the curriculum structure, its subjects or learning areas and the rationale for the inclusion of each in the curriculum; allocates time to various subjects and/or learning areas in each grade or stage; provides guidelines to subject curricula developers, teacher trainers and textbook writers; prescribes requirements for curriculum implementation, monitoring and evaluation.

The term can also be used to refer to a document which specifies the general outcomes (to be attained throughout the grades), the specific outcomes (to be attained by the end of a given grade), and the achievement indicators (e.g. a representative list of the depth, breadth, and expectations of the outcome) for a particular subject or subject area. It can also be used with reference to an educational stage or level

Curriculum guidelines

A document or set of documents usually providing guidance for teachers and instructors on approaches and procedures for a successful planning and implementation of the curriculum at school, local or national level. Guidelines can focus on a specific learning area or subject (e.g. health education curriculum guidelines), a particular educational level (e.g. curriculum guidelines for preschool education), a specific group of learners (e.g. learners with special educational needs, minorities, immigrants) or more broadly on the curriculum (e.g. curriculum, instruction and assessment guidelines). Curriculum guidelines can provide ideas, suggestions and recommendations intended to help teachers to make informed decisions, or be more prescriptive and detailed specifying the content, activities, tasks, and materials to be used by teachers.

Curriculum harmonization

Initiatives developed by sub-regional and regional organizations (for example the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States and the East African Community) intended to harmonize curricular contents, standards, and assessment in some subject areas such as mathematics and science education, as a way to foster integration and facilitate the mobility of students and teachers across countries. Harmonization is seen as a means of achieving an increasingly networked and interrelated group of curriculum and examination systems and improving education against common agreed benchmarks of excellence. Curriculum harmonization is also an important issue within decentralized and federal education systems.

Curriculum implementation

The process of putting the formal curriculum into practice. In the case of a new or revised curriculum this process ideally includes school development and improvement processes; fostered school leadership and ethos; in-service teacher training and the development of new textbooks, teaching and learning materials and resources, as well as guidelines.

Curriculum in Action / Implemented Curriculum

The actual teaching and learning activities taking place in schools through interaction between learners and teachers as well as among learners, e.g. how the intended curriculum is translated into practice and actually delivered. Also defined as the ‘curriculum in action’ or the ‘taught curriculum’.

Curriculum integration

The process of combining/articulating learning content and subjects with a view to promoting holistic and comprehensive learning.

Curriculum models

Broad theoretical frameworks used to design and organize the curriculum according to certain principles and criteria. For example, the product model that emphasizes plans and intentions, and the process model that focuses on activities and effects. Other examples include subject-centred (e.g. traditional or discipline-based curriculum), learner-centred, and problem-centred models.

Curriculum monitoring

A process of gathering information for evaluating the effectiveness of the curriculum and ensuring that the intended, implemented and attained curricula are aligned. This process typically focuses on such issues as relevance, consistency, practicality, effectiveness, scaling-up and sustainability, as well as whether learners are achieving the expected learning outcomes. It measures the extent to which the curriculum is commensurate with the diverse needs of all learners.

Curriculum objectives

Specific statements setting measurable expectations for what learners should know and be able to do, described either in terms of learning outcomes (what the learners are expected to learn), products or performance (what learners will produce as a result of a learning activity) or processes (describing the focus of learning activities). They can be seen as refinements of curriculum aims/goals that, for example, specify: performance standards or those skills and knowledge the learners are expected to be able to demonstrate; inferred or precise degree of mastery; and the conditions under which the performance will take place. In terms of effectiveness, curriculum objectives should: be concise and understandable to teachers, learners and parents; be feasible for the teachers and learners to accomplish; encompass previous learning and require the learner to integrate and then apply certain knowledge, skills, and attitudes in order to demonstrate achievement; and be measurable on a cumulative basis and at different stages of the learner’s educational career.

Curriculum organizers

Elements of the curriculum used as the main reference or basis for selecting and organizing learning experiences and defining the curriculum architecture. These can be subjects, themes, instructional time, learning outcomes, etc.

Curriculum planning

The process concerned with making decisions about what to learn, why, and how to organize the teaching and learning process taking into account existing curriculum requirements and the resources available. At the general level, it often results in the definition of a broad curriculum framework, as well as a syllabus for each subject to be used as reference by individual schools. At the school level, it involves developing course and assessment plans for different subjects. At the classroom level, it involves developing more detailed plans for learning units, individual lessons and lesson sequences.

Curriculum policy

Formal decisions made by government or education authorities that have a direct or significant effect on the curriculum, its development and implementation. These decisions are normally recorded in a range of official documents.

Curriculum relevance

Applicability and appropriateness of a curriculum to the needs, interests, aspirations and expectations of learners and society in general.

Curriculum review cycle

A systematic approach to evaluating, reviewing and revising curricular areas and programmes within a specific timeframe which aims to identify gaps and weaknesses with a view to increasing curriculum effectiveness and continually improving student learning experiences. Normally it involves several phases including: research and selection; revision and development; implementation; and evaluation and monitoring.

Curriculum structure

The way in which the curriculum is organized, including the subjects or learning areas, when they must be studied and the ‘pattern’ in which they must be studied. The curriculum may be composed, for example, of core and elective subjects studied with some variation between grades. It may also comprise cross-cutting or cross-curricular themes.

Curriculum studies

A field dealing with an array of sources that provide the following: (a) perspective on questions about what curriculum is or ought to be; (b) alternative or complementary paradigms of inquiry that enable explorations of such questions; and (c) diverse possibilities for proposing and enacting responses to the questions in educational theory and settings of educational practice.

Curriculum trends

Increasingly important changes that are taking place in the field of curriculum to respond to current and anticipated developments in society and education.


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