Mkandawire B. (2008) How the sociological foundations affect the development of a curriculum. Article presented at the Academy of Arts, Acting and film production seminar in Zambia.
Curriculum foundation refer to basic forces that influences and shapes the minds of curriculum developers to decide what to include in the curriculum and how to structure it. There are certain forces that provide a background of information upon which are the curriculum developers depend to make future decisions. These may include philosophical foundations which are studies of nature and value, Psychological foundation are studies of learners and the learning theory and sociological and cultural foundation which are studies of life and that is where our discussion is based.
The sociological foundation of the school curriculum affects the development of the curriculum in the sense that there are certain factors which intervene in the curriculum development process due to cultural beliefs, societal expectations, values, norms and traditions emanating from the background of stakeholders. Society is a general body of people, communities or nations constituting civilized mankind. It is a body of processes associated with one another for common objectives. Therefore, curriculum should be designed in light of the main trends and development of society. Any curriculum worth of it’s safe should try to reflect the cultural and social needs of that particular society. Culture is simply the way people live including their intellectual, discipline, dressing and training. Therefore, curriculum developers should look into moral and artistic development of its society [Taba 1962].
Cultural and social changes and expectations of the school can affect the implementation of the curriculum. However, this includes major changes to society such as unemployment patterns, societal values, economic growth and family relationships. Parental, employer and community expectations of schools. This is also affected by the educational system requirements and challenges. This includes systemic influences such as policy requirements, inquiry reports, external examinations, major curriculum projects and significant educational research.
The school’s ability to changing the nature of content in the curriculum can affect it. The subject matter taught in schools requires constant revision to update it with developments in the outside world. Examples include new knowledge acquired, technological development and new literature. A variety of external systems can contribute to enhancing teaching/learning strategies, content updates, evaluation techniques, institutions, educational institutes, local teacher centres, curriculum consultants, advisory teachers, in-service courses and subject associations.
School appropriate Resources: Curriculum developers need to be aware of the availability and flow of resources into the school. These may come from state education departments, the community and business organizations. This may in turn affect Pupils. Significant data that may be gathered on students include abilities, physical and psychological development, aptitudes, emotional and social development and educational needs. An accurate understanding of the nature of students allows for effective curriculum planning.
Teachers and school ethos can affect the curriculum. What are the skills, experience, teaching style, values and special strengths and weaknesses of a school teaching staff? Special strengths may broaden curriculum offerings and allow for curriculum enrichment and extension. School ethos include the school climate/environment is a significant factors influencing curriculum and includes principal involvement, power distribution, social cohesiveness, operational procedures and professional cohesiveness. Material resources also have a bearing in that what exactly the school possess in terms of buildings, equipment, resources (books, curriculum materials), land and vehicles as well as financial resources for future purchases may determine how the curriculum will be fulfilled.
Perceived problems within the school and the immediate communities can heavily affect the curriculum. Major stimulus for curriculum change emanates from a perception of needs or problems. Curriculum planners ascertain these from parents, teachers, students and the community. Needs-assessment techniques may be used.
Society and culture plays an important part on the formation of the school curriculum .It is infact society that devised schooling to ensure the survival of the cultural heritage which is the transfer of what society/people feel is good from one generation to the other. Curriculum developers serve the function of translating traditional assumptions ,ideas, values, knowledge and attitudes into curriculum objectives ,content, learning activities and evaluation .Of these elements, sociological sources have their greatest influence on content. Acting in this way, curriculum developers both transmit and reflect their own cultural heritage of which they are part of and this sociological foundation affects the development of the curriculum.
When curriculum developers devise the curriculum, the cultural back ground of those developers may be well aware of societal and cultural influences and have the deliberate intention in mind of reproduction aspects of that culture in the curriculum. These forces greatly affect the way curriculum is developed.
The introduction of new break through to literacy [NBTL] to lower grades by curriculum developers has worked in the school curriculum. Cross-cutting issues like HIV/AIDS, child abuse and gender violence has also affected the development of a curriculum. The school curriculum is seen as an important vehicle in promoting and consolidating the new values and attitudes. it has moved away from gender to stereotype where females were portrayed as being passive and males as active ,aggressive and leadership oriented and they would follow appropriate occupations. Boys in primary, secondary, college and university level are now taking up home economics as part of a personal development component, girls are also taking up technical drawing, wood work and carpentry .Society has also introduced technology in the school curriculum on the use of cell phones ,internet computer as well as fax machines. However, we need to be careful when dealing with society and culture because they bring in cultural induced biases.
As societies perpetuate themselves through implanting values in the learners through institutions such as schools, it is distinctly probable that some of these values will be culturally based. For example, a girls place should be in the kitchen whilst a boy should be left playing and discovering the environment. Then no ability to feminine roles as a male. A male child is not allowed in the kitchen to do the cooking, helping in washing clothes for younger ones even bathing them. In career choosing, girls are portrayed as passive who would undertake occupations similar in nature such as nursing, teaching, secretarial while occupations such as of that of a doctor and other top management jobs will be for males. Then there is an issue of the curriculum favoring urban children and neglecting rural child. In urban areas, technology has reached so fast that they have even introduced computer lessons from as early as grade one. Also issues of banks having Automated teller machines (A T Ms), use of cell phones etc has disadvantaged the rural child. There is need for curriculum developers to look into such matters for the benefit of the rural child as all these are factors for curriculum specialist to take into consideration.
Social and cultural forces have a profound effect upon curriculum both indirect and direct ways. The exact degree that a society and its culture should influence the education system through the curriculum is a more debatable issue. Curriculum developers should not forget that they are a product of their own culture and that every decision that they make will be culturally related.
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