Curriculum. We’ve seen and used this word countless times in the journey of education and learning in our modern world. But what exactly is it? When did it first begin? Who coined that word? What is it used for? Let’s take a journey to understand this word and find out whether we need a curriculum in our education.
The word “curriculum” originated as a Latin word which means “a race” or “the course of a race”. The first known use within an educational context was in the Professio Regia, a work by University of Paris professor, Petrus Ramus published posthumously in 1576. The term subsequently appeared in the University of Leiden’s records in 1582. The word’s origins appear “closely linked to the Calvinist desire to bring greater order to education.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Curriculum)
In short, curriculum refers to a planned sequence. It is simply a process that one uses to chase after goals in a controlled and orderly fashion. In other words, this word has no roots in learning or growth.
Some may challenge that curriculum still consists of growth and learning in the process. While I agree that in the process of a curriculum, elements of learning and growth do appear, but in its origin meaning, curriculum does not have learning or growth as its intention.
The current world of education throws the word ‘curriculum’ around quite loosely. Every school or education establishment uses the term to describe their goals and development objectives, which by definition is not wrong. However, I daresay that learning and growth is not at the core of this journey. Instead, it is about driving our students and participants towards a certain goal of readiness for the artificial and economical society that we have created. Based on the current observation of our “modern society” and its disconnected impact, I see very little reason to support these goals of having a curriculum. We need to ask ourselves, are we truly happy with our “Curriculum in Education”?
If I were to defend the meaning of ‘curriculum’ within the context of education, it has also never been used for growth and learning as well (refer to History of Education and Exams). It has always been a tool for the rich and powerful to consolidate their resources through communication. The only time education was widely accessible to all was during the Industrial Revolution, when those in power needed labour to operate on machines that required some form of knowledge. The curriculum was crafted to educate students and direct them in an orderly and controlled manner, as they adhered to those in power without self-reflection and awareness. In short, curriculum in education aimed to create labour that functions without question, creativity or humanity.
Past civilisations who valued learning and growth did not use a curriculum or a race to grow their society; instead, they progressed through pedagogy and philosophy.
‘Pedagogy’ is associated with the Greek tradition of philosophical dialogue, particularly the Socratic method of inquiry. It is defined as “to lead a child” in the Greek meaning of the word.
You might have heard of Reggio, Forest School, project-based or inquiry learning etc. All these terms function on the basis of a student-led approach, whereby learners dive deep into the topic based on their interests and passion. In the process, they learn the knowledge and grow the skills necessary to progress in their projects and interests. That is pedagogy. Hence, I would say that the term ‘pedagogy’ truly encompasses learning and growth instead. The focus on developing a pedagogy that suits the land, people and culture would have been more suitable for learning establishments with young learners. In areas and functions where goals are clearly defined, curriculum and education can serve its purpose. But in a learning community like a school for instance, pedagogy should be the focus.
An appropriate and balanced pedagogy approach will help teachers and adults in that community to reflect and grow, and deliver better learning and development processes. This will nurture a holistic environment for participants to learn through exploration and growth. Wouldn’t we want our young ones to grow up being highly self aware with the ability to question instinctively, rather than just amassing a pool of knowledge that might be debunked or obsolete ten years later? Some food for thought…
Let’s get out there and have more robust conversations and inquiries with our peers and community about this intriguing topic. Let that conversation spark a revolutionary enlightenment in our community. Let us spark a change in our modern society, towards a more balanced ecosystem.