The word curriculum derives from the Latin currere meaning ‘to run’. This implies that one of the functions of a curriculum is to provide a template or design which enables learning to take place. Curricula usually defines the learning that is expected to take place during a course or programme of study in terms of knowledge, skills and attitudes, they should specify the main teaching, learning and assessment methods and provide an indication of the learning resources required to support the effective delivery of the course. Conclusively, a curriculum is defined as all that is selected, organised, integrative, innovative and evaluative educational experiences provided to learners consciously or unconsciously under the school authority in order to achieve the designed learning outcomes where as curriculum intent entails what students are expected to learn, usually in forms of objectives, aims and goals.
Kaufman and English (1979), state that Needs assessment is ‘the process of determining the needs for which a learner or group of learners requires a language and arranging the needs according to priorities’. In doing this, needs analysts gather subjective and objective information about the learner in order to know the objectives for which the subject is needed, the situation in which it will be used, with whom the subject will be used, and the level of proficiency required. In another definition of needs analysis, McKimm (2007) focuses more on the information-gathering process; he states that techniques and procedures for collecting information to be used in syllabus design are referred to as needs analysis.
Situational analysis is the systematic process of analyzing the situation before the curriculum is developed effectively where as others like Taba (1962) describes situational Analysis as the diagnosis of needs. This entails the process of examining factors that exist in the environment or society where the curriculum is going to be implemented. Situational Analysis involves the following activities;
Identifying tasks and problems and seeking possible solutions,
Identifying difficulties and possible areas of resistance,
Clues to planning for the resources and the organizational changes that will be required.
Situational analysis factors include knowledge about the environment in terms of mountains, rivers, flora and fauna including places where the curriculum is going to be implemented, the social and political structure of that society, their traditions, norms, needs and aspirations of the community and the language or languages used for instruction (Mkandawire, 2010). This is important to note because it will defiantly affect the way learners will be able to incorporate and put in practise what will be learnt. Since education is aimed at changing learner’s attitudes, behaviours and thinking, the curriculum will only be effective if the learners’ attitudes change for the better. For instance, there is usually a lot of garbage laying around in our communities which entails people are not really being responsible towards the environment, most of them attribute it to the council but them at the end of it all, it is our communities which are affected and people getting sick due to a bad and damaged environments. Having analysed this, it will therefore be important to include it in the curriculum so that learners learn the various ways of disposing and managing their wastes.
Further, Bishop (1985) argued that situational Analysis should also involve members of the general public and not only experts. This is because Education itself is not a discipline like English and History but an area involving a wide variety of society with different backgrounds. Hence, Parents Teachers Association (P.T.A) and religious Organisations would appreciate it having a say something pertaining to the lives and future of their children. This therefore means that there is a way parents and society at large would want the curriculum to shape the attitudes of their children. Parents take their children to school in order for them to learn certain things and skills which will shape their behaviours by teaching them to be harder working both at home, community and country levels. For instance, children usually think the teachers are never wrong in what they say to a point that even if the teacher had to make a mistake, the child will prove stubborn by refusing to be corrected.
Simpson (1958) argued that situational Analysis involves the careful observation and an acute understanding of the variables influencing a given situation. The particular role of a researcher in situational Analysis is to contribute to our knowledge by isolating variables one by one, that are involved in every situation and then studying the effects of their interaction. The scientist in this regard measures the influence of each factor alone and later how these variables interact with each other. In short, every stakeholder must be analysed in details. To ensure effective results curriculum developers need to undertake Strength, Weakness, Opportunities, Threat analysis of the stakeholders involved. This will help the curriculum developers in knowing the opportunities a situation might present, act on it and achieve positive outcomes. Weaknesses once known will help them to plan in advance in case they might need more resources in the implementation of the curriculum.
In addition to this, under situation analysis, it has been seen as important to look at the Resources people posses. Rich people will contribute positively towards the education of a learner whereas poor people are unable to contribute much towards the development of the curriculum. This will help prior to implementation how much people are willing to sacrifice in order to see their children learn because it is believed by many that education is an investment; you choose to sacrifice now and later enjoy the fruits of your labour.
Taba (1962) defined Needs Assessment as a formal analysis that documents gaps between current results and the desired results. Need assessment involves arranging gaps in priority of order, selection of the needs to be resolved. Once analyzed, the information is then used to set appropriate aims, goals and objectives in curriculum development.
The importance of situational analysis and needs assessments is that they both provide us with up to date information which can be used to solve the problems, set providers, identify groups which require special need intervention and can create a platform for discussion in as far as curriculum development is concerned. By providers, these might be the sponsored, teachers, specialists in some cases such as inviting different personnel to have some talks and do their presentations so that the learners have first hand information about that particular topic and subject. For example, environmental education as a subject, you may choose to invite guests from the Zambian Environmental Management Agency (ZEMA).
Another importance of situational analysis and needs assessments is that Policy makers (Government officials) and decision makers (curriculum specialists) can make strong arguments in as far as allocation of resources is concerned (Mkandawire, 2010). These resources can however be in forms of human resources, teaching aids and instruments, books or financially. Environmental education is more practical than theoretical hence resources will be required especially in times of field excursions, trips or researches.
Further, the importance of situational analysis and needs assessments is that they help in the formulation of curriculum intent, content, selection of learning and teaching activities. It helps educationalists meet the needs and expectations of the society. Under normal circumstances, the content of subjects in curriculum intent is too formal and academic to meet the needs of the majority of the children who drop out of school especially if it was developed without situational analysis which is the case in most instances. What happens in schools neither satisfies their developing needs nor prepares the child adequately for the environment they live in. Practical subjects like wood work, drawing and music are therefore not given enough time and attention because the curriculum is mainly designed to transmit factual knowledge rather than to provide learning experiences (Mkandawire, 2010).
The importance of situational analysis and needs assessments is that they guide on what needs to be done by attacking a real problem in the community which are issue based rather than assumptions. For, in Zambia, waste management, land degradation, pollution are seem to be the most common environmental issues and problem so why not include such topics in the curriculum? Environmental management is suppose to begin from the grassroots level because once people’s attitudes are changed towards the environment, then theses problems will lessen up to some extent.
In conclusion, both needs assessment and situation analysis are important aspects which need not to be left out as the curriculum is being development. These are important in that they shape the direction of the curriculum there by reflecting what the learners need and want to learn.
Bishop, G. (1985). Curriculum Development; A Text book for students. London: Macmillan Education Ltd.
English, F.W & Kaufman, R. (1979). Needs assessment: Concept and Application. . Englewood Cliffs, N.J. Educational Technology publications.
McKimm J. (2007). Curriculum design and development. London.
Mkandawire B, S. (2010). The Importance of Situational Analysis and needs assessment in the initial stages of curriculum development: An article for education. Access on 20/03/12, 16.50 hrs.
Simpson Y. (1958). Racial and Culture Minorities; An Analysis of prejudice and Discrimination. New York: Harper & Row publishers.
Taba, H. (1962). Curriculum Development: Theory and Practice. New York: Macmillan Co. Inc.