Challenges of Curriculum implementation in Learning institutions

Mkandawire S. B. (2010) Impediments to curriculum implementation in learning institutions. Circulatory article for infomation resource

Ø Curriculum implementation, according to Okello and Kagoire (1996:124) “is a network of varying activities involved in translating curriculum designs into classroom activities and changing people’s attitudes to accept and participate in these activities”. However, curriculum implementers (teachers, headteachers, standard officers and others) are faced with barriers which hinder the successful implementation of the curriculum.

Ø It is very difficult to implement a curriculum successfully if the education system has limited funding capacities. Under funding raise a lot of other implications on the part of curriculum. The economy of a nation will determine the success of curriculum implementation. In developing countries, the numbers of pupils and teachers have kept on rising but government money available for education is less. (Sibulwa1996:35). Since manpower in the education sector has increased, the bulk of money allocated to education is absorbed by salaries leaving very little for teaching materials, books, in-service training, monitoring and other things needed for the smooth implementation the of curriculum. In the absence of teaching and learning materials, the teaching and learning processes will be hampered and if standard officers do not go out to evaluate, it will be difficult to know whether the curriculum is being effectively implemented or not. Although the government introduced tuition fees in secondary schools and higher institutions of learning to cushion the dwindling resources, the move has had little impact as most learning institutions are still experiencing liquidity problems. This has had a negative effect on curriculum implementation.

Ø Unavailability of school facilities and equipments like classrooms, libraries, resource centers, offices, desks, schools halls and others. The fact that the education sector is under-funded by the government means that the availability and quality or facilities in learning institutions is affected negatively. It has been observed that in most government schools in Zambia with an exception of the newly built, infrastructure is in a deplorable condition, Kelly (1999:196) describes the buildings as “dilapidated, unsafe and sometimes unusable.” In certain instances, some schools have inadequate classroom accommodation, which gives rise to double or triple shift in order to give all eligible children an opportunity to learn. Meanwhile, some schools, especially in remote areas, have no buildings at all. Furniture is also inadequate in most schools and in some cases the seats and desks are battered or totally absent (Kelly 1996). However, the face of infrastructure has improved in some schools with the help of donor funding such as ‘sector pool’.

Ø Teaching and learning resources are also a challenge. There is limited procurement and supply of these resources in schools. Instructional materials and equipment are all in short supply or may not be available at all – no books or writing material, no chalk, no science apparatus, inadequate or out of-date library (Kelly 1999). Worse still, with population explosion, classrooms are overcrowded and learners are made to share whatever little stocks of material and furniture available. In such situations, teacher effectiveness in hampered and it becomes almost impossible for the teacher to render individual pupil attention because of large numbers of pupils in classes – over enrolment. This kind of situation in institutions of learning will make it very difficult for curriculum implementers to carry out their roles effectively.

Ø Quality and quantity of teaching staff to meet the expectations of pupils and the society is another impediment. Teachers are the most important human resource in curriculum implementation since they are the ones who adopt and implement the ideas and aspirations of the designers. This imply that success of the curriculum depends on the teachers (Okello and Kagoire 1996). A sufficient supply of trained teachers is therefore, needed if the implementation of the curriculum is to be effective. In Zambia, however, learning institutions have been for a long time experiencing a shortage of the teaching staff and the rural areas are the most affected since teachers shun those areas. Teacher pupil ratio is too high and in some cases, untrained teachers are involved. When a school does not have enough teachers, the few that are there are overstretched/overloaded, hence they are overworked which in turn affects their capacity to teach effectively. In the case of high schools, for example, where there is specialization in terms of teaching subjects, some subjects are not offered in certain schools even though they appear in the curriculum because of trained teachers in those subjects are not available. Such hindrances are also found in higher institutions of learning. A good example is the University of Zambia where curriculum Development Studies is offered as an elective instead of a compulsory course in the school of Education due to shortage of trained staff in the subject area. Okello and Kagoire (1996:125) says , “The quality of education of a country largely depends on the quality of teachers.” In other words, the quality of education is as good as the quality of teacher. If the quality of teachers is poor, the quality of education will be poor. What this means, therefore is that the quality of teachers will determine the effectiveness of curriculum implementation. The education system needs adequately trained and motivated teachers in order to succeed in its programme but the Zambian education system lacks such teachers. For instance, the intended curriculum includes content for learners with special needs but trained personnel to handle such learners is inadequate. Hence, in some cases, they end up being taught by untrained teachers. This problem is also experienced in high schools are not fully qualified since they are diploma holders who are trained to handle junior classes and as such quality is compromised. In other Instances, some teachers fail to perform effectively despite their being fully qualified because they are either not well-educated and trained or they are well-educated and trained but demoralized. While the ill-trained teachers lack subject matter, the well trained teachers fail to implement the curriculum out of frustration because he has not been given the material resources needed for the professional discharge of his duties (Kelly 1999). For example, a teacher of English who has no material for comprehension lessons, will abandon the component all together and concentrate on teaching components such as structure where material is available. Similarly, in the absence of apparatus and chemicals needed for experiments, a science teacher will teach experiments theoretically, denying the learners the practical aspect of the content.

Ø Poor conditions of services for curriculum implementers is another challenge. In the same vein, poor salaries, no housing and generally poor conditions of service also demoralize the teachers who may resort to go into private commercial enterprises to supplement meager salaries. If various education policies and programmes are to be effectively implemented, teachers ought to be adequately trained and motivated. After pre-service training which provides foundation for professional service, teachers need to keep abreast with new developments in the system through in-service training. Other professional staff such as laboratory technicians and librarians also need to be in-serviced in order to give sound support to the teaching staff in the implementation of the curriculum.

Ø Poor time management by school administrators and teachers is another factor. Curriculum implementation is also hindered by what goes on in learning institutions. Pupils’ learning time is mismanaged by administrators and the class teacher. In most schools, a lot of time is taken up by activities such as assemblies, meetings held by visiting government officials, health talks, variety shows held during lesson time ,teacher-service programmes such as DODI which last the whole day and learners are either sent away or asked to stay away from school, unplanned holidays such as when a teacher dies, teachers’ day, women’s day, mother’s day and many other unforeseen eventualities that take place at the expense of learners.

Ø When it comes to classroom time management, the class teacher is the main player. A teacher who is not time conscious is not disciplined and a drawback in as far as curriculum implementation is concerned. For instance, a teacher of English who goes to class five [5] minutes for each lesson in a particular class everyday, will have lost 25minutes at the of the week. That is a lot of learners time wasted and will derail the implementation of the curriculum since curriculum developers take time into consideration when developing the curriculum. Teacher absenteeism from work for various reasons also costs the pupils learning time. Learner absenteeism from school also deprives the learner of learning time. In addition, the need to devote inordinate amount of time to the management of problems of large classes effectively reduce students’ time on the learning task which results in the failure to complete the intended content for the lesson and will necessitate the allocation of more time to the same task(Kelly:1999). Apart from that mock and final examinations also take up learning time for non examination classes.

Ø It should be noted that there are many factors that have a negative effect on curriculum implementation, it has been observed that, the nation’s economy plays a vital role in as far as the implementations of the curriculum is concerned. The availability of all resources required in the education system to facilitate effective teaching and learning processes depend on the money available. To a larger extent even the learners well-being in terms of good health and nutrition is also determined by the nation’s economy. In view of this, curriculum developers, adopters and implementers should be mindful of destructors such as these and address them adequately in order to minimize the impediments to curriculum implementation in learning institutions.


Kelly, J. M.. (1999)
The Development of Education in Zambia. Lusaka: Image publishers Limited

Okello, V and Kagoiren, M. A., (1996)
Makerere University, Curriculum Studies Module. Kampala: Bezatel Design Studies

Sibulwa, C. M. (1996),
Selected Reading Materials and Notes. EAP 111 Batch 3. Lusaka: Directorate of Distance Education

17th September 2010


About Sitwe

Sitwe Benson is a citizen of the world based in Zambia. He is never alone.
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