Skilbeck (1976) suggests that it is valuable to regard the curriculum as a kind of bridge or mediation between the learner and contemporary culture. Critically discuss Silbeck’s assertion.
Curriculum should indeed be regarded as a kind of bridge or mediation between the learner and contemporary culture because what is planned in the curriculum does not come from a vacuum. Curriculum specialists include issues reflecting the happenings of the society including its norms, traditions and culture. This explains why curriculum specialists include a variety of things which are naturally dynamic in nature. Saylar (1966) says the curriculum itself must be dynamic and ever changing as new developments and needs in our society arise. Contemporary culture pertains to the present culture or it is marked by the characteristics of the present.
Skilbeck’s suggestion is valid as it is the basis of most curriculum principles. It is argued that a good curriculum must reflect the needs of both the learners and the society, it must be of social relevance, utility and significance. This clearly suggests that it is valuable to regard the curriculum as a kind of bridge or mediation between the learner and contemporary culture.
From the sociological foundation, one would plainly argue that skillbeck’s suggestion to regard the curriculum as a kind of bridge or mediation between the learner and contemporary culture still stands. The Influences of society and culture on Curriculum in the development of the curriculum cannot be neglected. Society and culture exert enormous influences on the formation of the school curriculum or indeed any curriculum. After all it is society that devised schooling to ensure the survival of the cultural heritage, we would expect to see an extensive influence of society and culture upon curriculum in schools.
Curriculum developers serve the function of translating traditional assumptions, ideas, values, knowledge and attitudes into curriculum objectives, content, learning activities and evaluation. Of these curriculum elements, sociological sources have their greatest influence on content. In acting this way, curriculum developers both transmit and reflect the culture of which they are part of. Thus it is not possible to talk about a culture-free curriculum. Rather, one should consider a curriculum as a situation where judgments are made as to what aspects of culture are to be included and why. Consequently, when developers devise curricula the cultural background of those developers will become evident in the content they select, the methods they include, the objectives they set and so forth. Curriculum developers may be well aware of societal and cultural influences and have the deliberate intention in mind of reproducing aspects of that culture in the curriculum thereby agreeing to skillbecks suggestion of regarding the curriculum as a kind of bridge or mediation between the learner and contemporary culture.
To regard the curriculum as a kind of bridge or mediation between the learner and contemporary culture in the cotext of Zambia can also be demonstrated in the way the curriculum has evolved from 1964 upto date. Zambia became a plural society in 1991. This came with it, a lot of things. For instance, Multi-Party System because the contemporary culture is emphasizing on Democracy. Different religious groupings also emerged. To respond to this contemporary culture, pupils are being taught Civics with the component of democracy emphasized. This is to make learners appreciate that even when one is in the opposition side, they do not have to fight or kill each other, as it was during the single party state in Zambia, when the United National Independence Party (UNIP) vigilantes used to beat anyone who opposed UNIP that time. Subjects like Religious Education (RE) are tailored to accept and appreciate that in the contemporary culture, there is no religion that is the most superior. Therefore, all religions groupings – Christianity, Hinduism, Islam and others must be respected thereby making curriculum in the position of bridging or mediating between the learner and contemporary culture.
The contemporary culture is emphasizing on technology and its globalization. The component responding to the needs of technology has been included in the Zambian curriculum. For instance, computers studies or lessons are now offered in the Zambian schools. This is to let the learners have the knowledge of computers as these are part of the current world technology. Pupils should be computer literates.
A long time before Technical and Vocational Training Colleges were introduced in Zambia, there used to be apprenticeship as a way of acquiring skills. After doing the needs assessment or situational analysis, it was discovered that there is actually need to teach the Zambian learners formal skills to help them survive after leaving school. Lessons like wood work, metal work and home-economics were introduced. Because of wood work, there are people in Zambia making a living by making sofas. Others have come together and formed company-like enterprises e.g. Titandizane firm in Lusaka. And because of home economics, the cases of malnutrition have minimized or reduced. There is actually a programme in the Zambian schools to feed the children that are vulnerable or in need of help. In this way, curriculum becomes a bridge after doing needs assessment.
The contemporary culture also emphasizes on food sustenance or food security. Because of this, after doing situational analysis in Zambia, it was discovered that Zambia does not receive the much needed rainfall. As such there is need to have early maturing seed crops so as to have enough food in the country. Therefore, the agriculture sector has modified the maize seed crops so that they respond to the situation in Zambia. Because of this, this year (2010) Zambia is boastful of the maize bumper harvest. This means every person involved in agriculture (this is the largest occupation of Zambians) accessed these early maturing seeds. Besides early maturing seeds, there is also emphasis on diversifying the economy, that running away from the mono-economy of copper. People are then encouraged to plant other drought resistant crops like cassava and others. In this way, curriculum is a bridge to the contemporary culture.After conducting the needs assessment, the Zambian curriculum has actually been trying to respond to the contemporary culture of the country. For instance, it was decided that the Canadian Shield component in Geography was not helping the Zambian child or learner much. As such it was removed from the curriculum and in place of it, much emphasis has been placed on learning the terrain of the Zambian country so as to have food security. This is an aspect where the curriculum is acting as a bridge.
To regard the curriculum as a kind of bridge or mediation between the learner and contemporary culture can also be demonstrated in the current situation. The contemporary culture is also that the learner is a human being who should be allowed to think independently. This being the case, learners are being taught civic education and part of this emphasis is on human rights. This time around, there is much talk on stopping child abuse in Zambia. Because of this corporal punishment was stopped in the Zambian schools. Therefore, curriculum can be valued as a kind of bridge or mediation between the learner and the contemporary culture once it responds to the needs of the society the learner finds themselves in. The changes must be felt by the learner and to the larger extent, it is the learner who brings about these changes to the environment he finds himself in with the teachers under the guidance of the curriculum.
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Tyler, R,W.(1949) Pespectives of Curriculum evaluation.London:Falmer