Curriculum Series Number Two: Curriculum Aims, ‘The Why’…

The why of curriculum design is a hugely contested area, it is tied in to the ‘why’ of school itself and is driven by politics, values, ideology and what one feels is ‘right’. This is where there is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ about the design of curriculum one chooses, however there are right and wrong ways of designing the curriculum once you have decided on what the values are behind it. For those looking for a ‘science’ of curriculum design you might be disappointed but I see it as more of an art. I suppose if everyone decided on a list of measurable outcomes, saw these things as a sufficient measure for all the approaches and tried various curricula out over years and in different contexts and saw how the measurable outcomes varied it might be possible to decide which one is best…

It’s just that I don’t think we ever will be able to do this and nor do I think that it would be right to try. This does not mean that any way is okay because that way ignorance and chaos lie. There needs to be a unity of purpose and delivery in your overall curriculum even if you believe that each subject area can design the curriculum that best delivers their subject area, because that implies a unity of purpose in itself. However, if your values mean chaos and that no values are a good thing then it is unlikely you would be involved in formal education at all except as some sort of fifth columnist. Throwing a spanner in the works of systems has a long and noble tradition of its own and, in itself, this anarchy might be an aim in itself.

Let us look at the sort of thing that might guide your curriculum:

  • Ensuring excellent academic achievement
  • Making children ready to enter the job market
  • Creating good citizens
  • Creating ‘happy’ people
  • Creating a better society for all
  • Ensuring a successful meritocracy
  • Creating an equal society
  • Ensuring people believe in a nation’s ideals and values
  • Making people more creative
  • Making people more critical, especially of those in authority
  • Ensuring people know the knowledge that is deemed important for them to know
  • Learning a range of important subject disciplines
  • Ensuring people are equipped to be life-long learners
  • Ensuring people know how to behave well
  • Helping people make the right choices for their own well-being and the well-being of others

I’m sure there are many more so, it might be helpful, if you wish, to add some others in the comments section below.

What order would you put the above in? What would you emphasise, what would you leave out? Do some aims contradict other aims? Are all these aims curriculum focused?I will return to these questions in the next post: ‘What do we mean by ‘Curriculum’?’

For me it is only once you have decided what your curriculum is for and the order of importance of the aims you have that you can then start to take a suitable approach to curriculum design. This is where science might help you in some of your choices but so will intuition and reason – learning and thinking about the arguments around curriculum design and what is/are the right choice/s for your school?



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