Monday, January 16, 2012

Curriculum Development

As most people know, curriculum is the Latin word for racetrack. It is the course which chariots, horse, or humans run; it defines their ambit, and hence their ambition (which is the driving force behind their performance on the track).

The point about curricula is that they are courses laid out with a certain amount of planning. A straight course, like a 100m sprint, is an explosion of power and grace aimed in one direction; a curved course allows some manoeuvre and perhaps the display of slightly more complex skills; a 10,000m race or a marathon — the latter run across a rather more tortuous course — allows the display of fortitude and resource management as well.

In all cases, there is a plan. There is a central idea behind the layout of the course, there is an idea of what we are to be testing and how we are to test it.

Unfortunately, in many institutions, the idea of curriculum development has become something more akin to the design of a fun fair or an amusement park. You see freaks of all kinds, extreme performances, ostensibly all connected to one or more themes, but in reality just designed to put people through their paces in peculiar and novel ways, and collect money from them.

That's not to say that a fun fair or amusement park cannot have a rigorous curriculum design. Some can indeed show curricular excellence. What I'm saying is that a fun fair or amusement park need not have a rigorous curriculum design, and hence curriculum development is of no import to the economic model thereof.

My fond hope is that holistic curriculum design and development will be elevated to the necessary art it is in the sphere of education. What I'm now seeing is teams of bickering specialists carving out little fun fair and amusement park booths and tents for themselves. As long as they have space in the fairground or park, they're happy. They have no thought at all for their relationships with the rest of the carnival.

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