To understand what curriculum revision and change mean, it is necessary to remind ourselves quickly of what a curriculum is, and the purpose it ought to serve. As we have seen in earlier sections, a curriculum is a kind of plan of the leering experiences a defined population of learners goes through in school. Such learning experiences are expected to result in certain outcomes for the learners – in the form of knowledge, skills, competencies, and attitudes. It is the aggregate of these outcomes we refer to as learning.
Essentially, the purpose of a curriculum is to ensure that these outcomes just do not happen by chance. Since they are outcomes that have been identified as necessary and desirable for the progress of a specific society, we want to deliberately contrive them, and perhaps determine in what sequence and to what depth they occur. This is what a curriculum is designed to do.
Curriculum revision or renewal, therefore, implies the process of removing, adding, or modifying certain aspects of the curriculum. For example, parents, teachers, and educationists may decide that in order to better realize the stated objectives of a curriculum, certain subjects need to be introduced, or some others removed or modified. When this happens, it is then said that the curriculum is revised.
Curriculum change, on the other hand, implies something different. Curriculum change occurs when a society’s whole philosophy of life changes, and correspondingly the objectives of education in that society. A consequence of such a change in objectives is that a completely new structure of education is required. A good example is the change that occurred in 1969 when the National Curriculum Conference recommended a system of education completely different from that inherited from the colonialists. This occasioned a change in the curriculum of Nigerian Schools.
According to Johnson (1967), the curriculum process begins with learning objectives followed by learning experience, then content, method, and finally evaluation of the outcomes with respect to the intended objectives. These form a cycle with the result that an evaluation of the outcomes may bring about a modification of the objectives, the learning experience, or the content. By implication then, curriculum revision may originate at any point in the cycle as a result of information obtained at the evaluation stage, or as a result of other factors (Okeke, 1981:105). When such a change occurs, we speak of the curriculum being renewed.
Factors that influence curriculum revision and change
Change in the objectives of education: The type of education of any society is determined by that society’s values beliefs, aspirations, and ideals. Indeed, one of the major functions of education is to pass to the young the values, beliefs, and ideals of a society. These, essentially, are what are contained in the curriculum.
Societal values and goals, however, are not static. They change with time, and if education is to continue to be relevant and effective, it should correspondingly change. Such changes have to be reflected in the curriculum. In the preceding section, we described how the system of education inherited from the colonial era ceased to be appropriate in the newly independent Nigeria. The colonialists had designed an education system that would produce teachers, missionaries, clerks, etc. With independence, Nigeria needed high and middle-level manpower that could not be produced by the colonial system of education. This occasioned the curriculum change that started with the 1969 conference.
Change in the nature of knowledge: Another factor that influences curriculum revision and change is the changing nature of knowledge itself. Knowledge is not static, as new knowledge is added every day with new discoveries and new insights into the nature of man. In fact, the expression “knowledge explosion” is coined to denote the vast increases in man’s knowledge in the past century. Since it is through subject matter that much of the ‘new’ knowledge is communicated to the younger generation, this subject matter must, of necessity, also change. This requires a renewal of the curriculum.
Change in what is known about the learning process: Change in what we know about the learning process is another factor that influences curriculum changes. In the past, learning was thought to consist mainly of the ability to recall or regurgitate facts earlier learned. Methods that encouraged rote learning were therefore the predominant ones used in school. With increased knowledge about the functioning of the human mind, and the development of new technologies of education, learning experiences have changed. For example, we now use more of those methods that encourage critical thinking, pupil activity, and practical experience. It has become necessary, therefore, to revise the curriculum to better organize learning experiences to meet the intended objectives.
Change in the system of education: Another factor, perhaps rather more occurs in the system of education to make it more efficient and cost-effective. When this happens, the curriculum also changes along the revised lines. A good example is the number of years a learner has to spend at various stages of education in Nigeria. A few decades ago, learner spends eight years in primary school, five years in secondary school, and an additional three years in higher education. Now, the system of education has been revised to six years of primary school, six years of secondary school, and four years of higher education. Correspondingly, the curriculum has been revised to take into account the duration of schooling, as well as the admission age of the learner.
Change necessitated by feedback from curriculum evaluation: Information obtained from curriculum evaluation is another factor that influences curriculum revision. To ensure that the elements of the curriculum are working efficiently toward the realization of the stated goals of education, periodic evaluation could lead to the revision of a part or the whole curriculum. For easy reference, let us list the factors that influence curriculum revision:
- Change in the objectives of education resulting from changes in social values, beliefs, and traditions
- Change in the nature of knowledge
- Change in what is known about the learning process
- Change in the system of education
- Change is necessitated by feedback from curriculum evaluation.
The article provides a brief brief of curriculum development in Nigeria. It starts with an overview of the pre-1969 history of curriculum, which we described as predominantly colonial in orientation. The dissatisfaction with this curriculum after the Nigerian gained her independence resulted in this section. The article finally ended with a description of the current Nigeria curriculum that emanated from the report and recommendations of the 1969 conference. We also discussed the process of curriculum revision and changes. We attempted to distinguish between the two terms- curriculum revision and curriculum change – and examined the factors that influence curriculum revision and change.