A curriculum refers to prescribed and defined course of studies that students must pass through in order to pass a level of education (Ornstein, 2003). In elementary school, high school or college, the term curriculum may also refer to the courses required to pass a schooling stage or the overall offering of courses. The following paper describes the forces that influence the school curriculum, and how they influence it. The description will be done through an analysis of the main influencers of curriculum namely the government, community, parents, staff, big business, technology, schools council, higher education and the examination board.
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In America, most of the crucial decisions involving curriculum are made by the federal and state governments (Decker, 2004). For example, governors do have oversights of the school curriculum although sometimes they shy away from this function. Governors should be able to influence what curricula should involve, and they should also be involved in the appointing of appropriate staff in the education sector. In most cases, governors are known to ensure equality during the representation of community, parents and staff, and they are expected to possess power in such a momentous activity, geared towards the improvement of the curriculum (Ornstein, 2003). For example, in America, the federal government creates laws that form a mandate for every school to meet a certain minimum level of requirement. The government and the State usually achieve this through the creation of forums, public meetings and committees, whereby they collect different opinions and interests on curriculum (Decker, 2004).
In Canada, the ministry of Education is usually responsible for the creation of education standards for students, especially in grades K to 12 (Brooks, 2006). According to Decker, (2004), Prescribed Learning Outcomes (PLO) can be referred to as the expectations of the government that are concerned with what students should learn at a particular grade or in a particular subject. The government offers curriculum materials especially the standard syllabus and various guides for each field, subject and grade level. The standards are always concerned with what students should learn in each class whether in elementary school, high school or institutions of higher learning. This involves the approved learning materials that are applicable for each subject or grade level.
In America, parents usually have an influence on the curriculum of the schools, because the parents- teachers associations have been growing significantly in terms of power and influence (Ornstein, 2003). Apart from parent- teacher relationships, there are teacher- governors who are highly effective in influencing the curriculum. Parents usually have a way to push the way forward for every curriculum in the country. They like probing and researching widely about the benefits of a school curriculum especially through examination results (Milford, 2010).
In Canada, parents are also loyal when it comes to contributing money for new curriculum areas (Teale, 2007). However, some parents do not mind about the curriculum their children take, rather, they consider things like transport, uniform, discipline and traditions. On the other hand, some parents have mastered the art of being totally involved in curriculum decisions, and this becomes a benefit for children in the long run. At one point, Canada’s parents in Quebec sought a court order to keep their children out of a particular class that dealt with ethics and religious studies in the province schools. Although their appeals were rejected in the case, this move shows that parents are interested in the curriculum that is taken by their children.
In America, the community has also been involved in curriculum development, and its influence on the curriculum remains extremely significant (Phelan, 2003). This is because various local employers also have a keen interest in the curriculum of a school. For example, in the area of Bradford, the community there has already given their proposal about their thoughts on basic mathematical requirements (Teale, 2007). In a certain community, the people in that society may influence the curriculum to teach certain religious and political topics. Some employers and firm representatives have made it possible for schools to take up work experience as part of the schools’ curriculum. Also, some firms and organizations have brought about the issue of taking teachers to work in those firms several times in a year, as part of Careers Service to the community (Phelan, 2003).
In Canada, the community may not be able to control the curriculum, but its influence on the curriculum is visible through the various activities and other interactivities (Decker, 2003). The community has an exceptional understanding of the most beneficial courses to take in school because of the future employment opportunities. Some people may feel that some subjects (for example, teaching Latin in a class) are quite irrelevant as compared to other subjects (such as Design) because some are more applicable in diverse fields as compared to others. For example, if the community is largely Christians, the surrounding schools may be influenced to prefer teaching Christian subjects as opposed to Hindu or Muslim. In Canada, communities may sometimes work with parents to give their proposals on the curriculum (Decker, 2003).
Staff & Teachers
In America, the school staff plays a significant role in determining the most appropriate curriculum to administer to various grade levels or subjects (Phelan, 2003). The staff refers to the teachers involved in the teaching of students. It is right to say that the curriculum is a teachers’ job, and therefore, they have to be involved in its development. Staff is the largest force that influences the curriculum. Teachers do understand that if the curriculum remains the same in the school, there will be eventual decline of useful learning (Phelan, 2011).
In Canada, the faculty and staff of learning institutions are involved in the affairs of their school curriculum while acting like career instructors. According to Remillard, (2011), the staff usually influences the curriculum through various working parties that allow teachers to propose the most ideal curricula and recommend the curricula implementations after thorough considerations. Also, teachers do influence the curricula through the creation of time tables, whereby they set the most appropriate timings of classes and examinations.
In America and Canada, teachers and the staff are the ones who understand that various changes need to be done on the curriculum every now and then for the good of each school (Remillard, 2011). A teacher is best placed to understand the best teaching method for a subject or grade level. Some subjects or grade levels may require the student to use imagination or creativity to enhance the level of understanding while others may require extra research to facilitate understanding. All these are aspects of curriculum that teachers understand the best, and this is the reason as to why teachers remain the main influencers of the curriculum.
In America, the schools council also influences the curriculum adopted in schools (Giroux, 1999). The schools council comprises of influential people like school inspectors who play a leading role in the shaping of a school’s curriculum. For example, many school inspectors do visit schools and make various recommendations about the activities of the staff and students.
In Canada, the school council is usually a very important part of the schools, and it usually assists in bringing the concerns that are derived from parents, staff and the community into a single forum (Milford, 2010). The council helps in determining the number of the teaching and non teaching staff in each of the schools. Such councils and boards are quite involved in negotiations and decision making of issues concerning the curriculum and curriculum changes.
Higher Education and Examination body
In both Canada and America, all higher education institutions (for example, universities) and various examination boards do have a positive influence on the curriculum. Examination boards are usually extremely vital in the setting of school patterns even though they play a lesser role in the curriculum development (Brooks, 2004). Examination bodies always encourage teachers on the most appropriate syllabuses to cover, for students to prepare for various exams. Also, the higher education institutions especially universities do believe that they can manage to set their own exams to test their students. In America, the term curriculum was used to refer to the content of baccalaureate experience among the American colleges, starting with Harvard College in the 1600’s. The faculties and the higher learning institutions continued to shape the curriculum in the subsequent years up to date.
At one point, the universities disagreed about the issue of incorporation certain curriculum standards for student. This happened in Canada whereby a British firm known as British Aerospace felt that some subjects were desirable for those applying for a job of Technician Apprenticeship (Jennifer et al. 2009). However, the universities held the final say and they could not accept the firm’s proposal. This shows that higher learning institutions do have an influence over curriculum.
Technology has a key role to play in the shaping of curriculum in schools, in all developed countries (KOMPF, 2005). The influence of technology on the curriculum is similar in both Canada and America. This is because high-tech computers and technology are being used to define learning processes, education missions, content and objectives (Prain, 2003). Powerful computers and other technological advancements are constantly used to focus the curriculum on authentic problems that go along with real world problems that people encounter. Also, the growth and development of virtual communities in practice have been made possible by technological developments such that students are able to use various tools that are the same with the ones used in today’s workplaces. Technology can also be used by students to assist in guided inquiry through new concepts, resulting in complex products. Such advancements have made it easier for the handicapped to access aided learning, making it possible for them to learn comfortably like other children. Technology also enhances the development of shared experiences among the students while ensuring that students are also involved in the generation of knowledge and growth of learning experiences (KOMPF, 2005).
The Big Business
In America and Canada, the successful big business has achieved new roles in schools and the school curriculum (KOMPF, 2009). For example, American private companies have increased their involvement in tackling underperformance in schools, and improving the teaching. The private companies have embarked on bridging the gap between learning institutions and the community in every society. Their involvement can be seen in the recent approach of National Australia Bank and the Ross Trust towards the education Department, whereby they proposed to increase their involvement in schools and curriculum.
In Canada, the big business, especially the large corporations do have a significant influence on the education and curriculum (Brooks, 2002). For example, after a long time of negotiation, Jin Balsillie, the co-founder of BlackBerry phone donated $30 million to create a school of international law for a Canadian University. In other sectors, one can find that corporations such as Microsoft have been involved in the merging of seventeen poor schools into ten manageable schools in the Broad meadows Regeneration Project. In other areas, companies like ANZ have been involved in intensely offering scholarships to the needy students starting in the year 2010. Some of the roles that the private businesses have undertaken are such as ensuring that 95% of children in Melbourne are able to attend kindergarten, and also the adoption of Britain’s Teach First program. In Britain’s Teach First program, the best graduates from reputable universities are recruited and trained for two or three months by the private businesses, and then they are posted to disadvantaged schools in the region. Therefore, large corporations are influencing the shaping and direction of the schools and the curriculum (Brooks, 2002).
Most of the weighty decisions involving curriculum are continuously made by the federal and state governments. Parents usually have an influence on the curriculum of the schools. Therefore, the parents- teachers associations have been growing significantly in terms of power and influence. The community has also been involved in curriculum development, and its influence on the curriculum remains particularly significant. The school staff plays a key role in determining the most appropriate curriculum to administer to various grade levels or subjects. Also, schools council, higher education, the examination board and the successful business also play a significant role in influencing the curriculum as described in the above paper.
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