What’s in a curriculum?

It’s important to start this post on the definition of what a curriculum is, not because I’m doubting readers’ intelligence or ability to make use of a dictionary to check the meaning of curriculum but because for simplicity sake I would like to contextualise this post within the narrow and limiting Oxford dictionary’s meaning of it. Going by the (basic) definition of curriculum according to Oxford dictionary, it means “the subjects comprising a course of study in a school or college.” However, on Edu-Twitter UK, there has been a series of discourse around curriculum issues with differing views, as well as views that are aligned, on what the nature of a curriculum is or should be. The main crux of the discourse has been should a curriculum be rich in knowledge, knowledge rich or skills focused? You can download this PDF document (compiled by @csmith_mrs) to read some of the blog posts by educators on the issue in the UK

Recently I read a Daily Trust’s article in which “An educationist, Mrs Olayemi Obanure said Nigerian curriculum looks confusing thereby affecting the quality of education in the country.” On reading the article I was able to notice the same tensions – although in a different context – around skills and knowledge in the interview, just like it has been happening with issues that relate to the curriculum discourse on Edu-Twitter UK. However, what these tensions have exposed me to as an educator and a young parent is that educators all over the world, irrespective of the context in which they exist in, want the best educational experience and outcomes for the children (students) in their care. Although, the curriculum delivery by many private schools in Nigeria is usually contextualised within the world view of ‘world class education’, hence, globalised as against glocalised.

The idea of “world class” education in Nigeria has led many schools to claim to deliver “Nigerian – British curriculum”, “Nigerian – American curriculum”, “British curriculum”, “American curriculum” or even more recently “Singaporean curriculum” etc. Perhaps, there’s a crave and fad to use the most trending adjective to qualify the type of curriculum some of the private schools in Nigeria use. However, the main issue that seems to have been lost in all of these to some of these schools is that a curriculum is as good as the ability of the educators in charge of it to be able to deliver the it to the fullest of its strengths while address its shortcomings by being: innovative, creative and reflective in its design, delivery and evaluation process. Hence, I question the use of ‘foreign’ curriculums in the way and manner that many private schools in Nigeria tend to claim to use them.

To be clear, I have no issue with anyone choosing to use any particular type of curriculum be it local, national, international, ‘world class’ or foreign. What I struggle with is the idea that a school or a teacher can decide to use a curriculum that was designed in a setting that’s most likely and profoundly culturally different from its or her own context with different contextualised issues for a group of children in another in its or her own context without adapting such a curriculum such that it would be fit for purpose. However, that debate is for another day, even though I have written about it in Beyond CAN And NERDC Curriculum Issues: The Foreign Curriculums Phenomenon In Nigerian Schools’ and Towards A Sustainable Education In Nigeria: The Role Of The National Curriculum’. But there is the need to revisit the Daily Trust’s article and discuss a fundamental curriculum issue raised by the educationist, that is “The Nigerian curriculum looks confusing at any time these days.”

So, why is the curriculum a source of confusion? To answer this question, I would link the problem with Nigeria’s National Policy on Education (2013). But why would I link “curriculum looks confusing” with policy, when policy in the first instance would have influenced the contents in the curriculum? It is because the Nigerian National Policy on Education 2013 in its curriculum provision created a recipe for confusion with regards to the list of subjects it recommends in its basic (primary) education curriculum. When I was in primary school in the 1980s we covered (mainly): Maths, English, Social Studies, Moral instruction, Yoruba and Health science in our curriculum but the present national curriculum for primary education covers: Agriculture, Arabic language, Basic Science, Basic Technology, Religious education, Civic education, Cultural & Creative Arts, English language, Entrepreneurship, French language, Maths, Home economics, Information technology, Physical & Health education, Security education, Social studies and one Nigerian language.

Thus, the number of subjects that are compulsory to cover in the primary education curriculum gives one concerns on how confusing that can be for a teacher that wants to plan lessons according to the curriculum’s set subjects, topics and objectives and deliver all of them in an academic term or session. However, educators – education administrators, school leaders and classroom teachers – need to actively make use of the curriculum and explore the richness in it while addressing some of the issues that are inherent in its provision. For instance, there was a national outcry on the state of drug addiction among the nation’s youths after a BBC documentary “Sweet Sweet Codeine” was aired online but what seems to be unknown to the public and perhaps many educators in the country is that the national curriculum provides for the teaching of “Common Drugs in Our Community and The Right People to Give Them.”, “Ways of Identifying Someone who has Abused Drugs.”, “Characteristics of Drug Abusers, their Treatment and Rehabilitation.” and “Prevention of Drug abuse – Life Coping Skills.” in its primary 3 & 4 social studies curriculum.

While the educationist raised other important issues with regards to the national curriculum it is more important that those engaged in providing education to children in the country engage actively and critically with the national curriculum.

Are you a school leader or teacher? What do you think about this post?Please, leave your thoughts on this post in the comment section below, and feel free to share the article with your contacts. Thanks for taking out of your precious time to read my article/s!


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