Functions Of The Primary School Curriculum Education Essay

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This chapter presents the studies discussion. It provides an opportunity to explain the meaning of the findings and place the research within a broader context.

Before starting with the content analysis of the secondary data- Curriculum Framework, let us have a look at its meaning.

Curriculum Frameworks are a group of documents created to help education practitioners and programs design, implement, assess and evaluate instruction. Within each discipline, frameworks development teams have done extensive research to determine the critical elements of education within that area. They have looked at the content, concepts, skills, vocabulary, and learning curve of education within these disciplines, both through their reading of the research and through field testing conducted throughout the state. The Frameworks are not ready-made curricula for the subjects that education covers, because the enormous variation in students, staff, and programs across the world would make it impossible to dictate a uniform approach and scope of coverage within each discipline. Rather, the frameworks provide programs with strands and standards that serve as the basis for curriculum design within each content area. Strands are the themes that run through a framework; for instance, the strands of the English Language are Reading, Writing, Oral Communication and Critical Thinking. Standards are the indicators of performance within each strand that help instructors to determine a student's level of proficiency, target areas for improvement, and design instruction and assessment that will meet students' needs. (Massachusetts Department of Education , 2001)

After, studying the Curriculum Framework, it has been classified into meaningful categories so as to bring out its essential components. This can be illustrated by the following table.

Introduction: Current Context

Provides teachers, parents and the community at large with clear statement of what pupils are expected to achieve at their end of primary schooling and how they can best support children

Educational Policy Statements

It describes the Government goal:

Empowering Mauritian child to face the emerging challenges of the new millennium.

Look beyond mere academic achievement and think more in terms of lifelong learning

Ensure social cohesion and national unity

Commitment to values to the preservation of the environment

Shift from subject-centred to child-centred learning

Shift from examination-driven to a curriculum-driven system of education

Deloading curriculum- provides teachers more time to interactive, innovative and attend individual learning of every student

Embedding ICT to improve quality of teaching and learning

Statement of Broad learning objectives and outcomes

Apart from skills for listening, speaking, writing; numerical and spatial concept for logical and rational thoughts; participation in arts and attitude of good citizens. The Framework also :

Promotes all-round development of the individual

Fosters understanding and appreciation of the biological, physical and technological world.

Develops learner skills and knowledge

Develops creative thinking and learning competencies required for future

Promotes equity and social justice

Fosters national unity through individual understanding and respect for our multicultural heritage

Promotes appreciation of his/her place in an interdependent global context

Promotes culture of lifelong learning for greater success to an ever-changing job market

Structure of Education System

Primary level is divided into three stages

Stage I Standard I & II Years 5-6

Stage II Standard III & IV Years 7-8

Stage III Standard V & VI Years 9-11/12

Structure of Curriculum, Content, Learning Areas and Subjects

Subject Areas: English, French, Asian Languages/Arabic, Mathematics, Health and Physical Education, Science, History/Geography, Arts and ICT.

It also explains the pattern of subjects or learning areas to be studied at each stage.

There is a detailed description of each subject or learning area for its inclusion in curriculum and contribution it makes to the achievement of learning outcomes.

Standard of Resources Required for Implementation

Teachers: qualifications, teaching load per subject.

Students: Not clearly defined

Materials: Not précised

Teaching Methodology

Describes the set of values, knowledge and skills, qualification must possess.

Teacher must also emphasize differential learning techniques, self-directed and child-centred learning.

Assessment/Evaluation and Student Achievement

Describe the importance of assessing the extent to which students achieve the outcomes established for each subject, and recommends various types of assessment ( continuous, summative and formative) and reliability for each stage.

It is to be noted that the above secondary data has been brought up only to benchmark it against the findings of interviews carried out. As the extent to which there is consonance between the written curriculum and the taught curriculum seems to vary considerably. At one extreme are those school systems that claim to have achieved a high degree of consonance between the two by implementing curriculum alignment projects. At the other extreme are schools where a state of curricular anarchy exists: Each teacher develops his or her own curriculum, with all sorts of disparate activities going on across the school. How does the taught curriculum, regardless of its fit with the written curriculum, become established? The question is a complex and an important one that can best be answered by the interviews carried out in schools and with the curriculum developers.

In order to track the learning and teaching effectiveness against the written learning goals in the curriculum framework, thematic analysis of the comments provided on curriculum evaluations have been done. It identified three major themes which were the main focus for investigation during the curriculum evaluation process: functions of the primary school curriculum; teacher-student relationship through teachers' practices and the Mauritian culture of education.

Theme 1: Functions of the Primary School Curriculum

Prior studies in the literature review have noted the importance of curriculum based on state standards. The idea is to provide a common body of knowledge to all students within a particular state. Likewise our country has a national curriculum framework as shown above. Yet, once these documents have been created, the question that teachers and school administrators face is what to do with them. For sure, schools are encouraged to function according to the curriculum framework. As we can see in the table above, there is high level of agreement on the function of the curriculum among key stakeholders in the primary sector notably- the Ministry of Education and Human Resources, curriculum developers at the Mauritius Institute of Education (MIE), principals, teachers as well as the whole community.

Similarly, the MIE curriculum developers comments related to the functions of the curriculum were very positive and related to the table above. Research participants considered that the curriculum is divided in three parts namely: official/intended curriculum, the implemented part and the attained one. As a whole for them it is a body of knowledge which encompasses the total learning experience of the learner/child throughout its course, at different level and for different subjects.

They made it clear that the curriculum is not equal to the syllabus, which is generally uni-dimensional as it merely presents the content or the subject matter to be studied. Whereas, for them the curriculum is multi-dimensional as it does not only take into account the cognitive aspect but the complete holistic development of the child by catering for different aspects and students need. Their philosophy behind the curriculum brings the competency of the child through the right teaching strategies, adapted syllabus, appropriate textbooks, relevant assessment techniques and competent school resources. Surprisingly, this philosophy of curriculum is not reflected in the actual National Curriculum Framework as they are likely to limit their planning to a consideration of the detailed content or the body of knowledge that they wish to transmit. Thus it can be deduced that these people still equate curriculum with a syllabus; it is also because this view of curriculum has been adopted that many teachers in primary schools, are regarding issues of curriculum as of no concern to them, since they have regarded their task as being to transmit bodies of knowledge in this manner.

The most important factor that was identified by the curriculum developers were that it deals with the essentials to prepare students for society. It also organises learning by describing what to learn, how to learn and what outcomes should be attained. It generally aims at expressing how they want to educate and what they want of the learner- level-wise and knowledge -wise.

It can thus be suggested that for them the school curriculum should contribute to the development of pupils' sense of identity through knowledge and understanding of the spiritual, moral, social and cultural heritages of Mauritius' diverse society and of the local and global dimensions of their lives.

An awareness and understanding of and respect for the environments in which they live and secure their commitment to sustainable development at a personal, local, national and global level also is emphasized.

It can be further claimed at this time that educating 'human capital' for international competitiveness purposes is becoming a key aspect of national education. This clearly set out with the aim of assessing the importance of curriculum in a systematic way as mentioned in the literature review in order to closely tie the school with the economy. Within this complex policy-making, adding a 'global dimension' has gained momentum in primary schools, and need for a 'global dimension' in primary classrooms has also been spurred by the notion that the 'world is flat' by Friedman.

The findings of the current study are consistent with those of Schwartz (2002) and Pepper (2008) in the literature who found that the curriculum seeks to prepare pupils to be lifelong learners and active participants in society so that the first generations of citizens take their place in a democratic society. Subsequently, great attention has been paid to the '2020 Generation' who are currently in primary school but are set to enter the workforce in the next decade. The Education & Human Resources strategy plan 2008-2020 states that: By 2020 the Government would like all schools to be models of good global citizenship, enriching their educational mission with active support for the well-being of the global environment and community.

Compared to the primary sector teachers, the level of overall agreement on the functions of the curriculum differed. In their point of view, meaningful differences came out. Although there is a central Curriculum Framework that schools have to follow; researches have proved otherwise.

In has been deduced through the statements of the teachers, that teachers within high achieving schools as well as medium achieving ones, spoke in similar general terms when asked about their aims and priorities for their pupils. That is while adopting the curriculum their main schooling objectives were coinciding. All were concerned that pupils should be provided with:

Quantity education that takes all pupils on board without exception

Quality education that encourages pupils to do their best academically

Assure that students are all-rounder

Inculcate manners in students and make them good citizens

Enable pupils to use modern technological equipments

Caring for the well-being and security of children

Make learning interesting with creativity

Keep strong bonding with parents

However, these aims were often expressed in terms which showed the differing ideological influences when compared to low achieving schools as the low-achieving school raised concern only over increasing performance of CPE level and ensuring successful pursuit as well as completion of schooling. Literacy and numeracy were far more important for them.

These aims could be reflected in the subject and areas taught. All schools are supposed to teach French, English, Mathematics, History/Geography, Physical Education, Music/Arts, ICT and Citizenship. But the current study found that this is not the case, Physical Education, Music/Arts, ICT and Citizenship are taught only in High and sometimes medium achieving schools while in low achieving ones neither ICT nor Citizenship are taught, Physical Education are done up to stage II only and Music/Arts are done occasionally or once only for Music day. The abrupt change of subject for level are because the student are given "blinders" to focus only for the CPE. Unfortunately this also embraces high and medium achieving school.

Teachers in high and middle achieving schools stressed the importance of the development of the "whole child" and the individualist nature of the educational process, with an emphasis on differentiated teaching. The teachers emphasized a notion of equal entitlement for all children which focused on their cognitive as well as whole development. There was a concern expressed by teachers devoted to engendering a love of learning and the fostering of a co-operative and collaborative outlook, to support the development of future citizens. Some other aspects of teachers' priorities were also quite specific to the national context and related to the underlying aims of the national education system as a whole. This study produced results which corroborate the findings of a great deal of the Scandinavian work in the literature review; more particularly that of Undervisningsministeriet (2006) ,which states that curriculum should promote ethical and value-based goals which might be considered relevant to students' all-round individual development.

In contrast, undoubtedly there is a clear tension between the rhetoric of the "learning society" and the reality of the "performance" culture which is being promoted by current policy-making. In low achieving schools, the more characteristically aim of the teachers was the transmission of communal knowledge, so that all pupils would attain the same basic level of education. This emphasis on egalitarianism, student identity and social cohesion is a central part of the policy rhetoric of education in low achieving schools; which reflects a radical approach to curriculum that hypotheses that the curriculum must keep the goal of equality in mind at all times, even if achieving this goal means sweeping change or revolutionary action. These teachers were also more concerned with an emphasis on structure, system and stages. Each stage in the education system was seen as a rung in the ladder to get to the next stage so that teachers, parents and children shared a common idea of a clear "ladder of progress" through the education system. Thereby recognizing the need for their pupils to achieve academically. Like Apple and Beane (2007) say, students and their families have, "become 'consumers' of credits and credentials rather than citizens in a collaborative community".

Contrary to the state and MIE curriculum developers' expectations, this study did not find a significant positive overview of curriculum motives. It rather demonstrates an overload in primary schools which is identified as the problematic phenomenon of the expansion of the curriculum - the process of continually adding to the curriculum so as to make the child an all-rounder without taking anything out. It is premised on the notion that adding to the curriculum does not necessarily improve it and may, contrary to the intent, contribute to a blurring of what is important. Perhaps, in an increasingly layered, content-laden curriculum, key aims for children's learning and development in primary schools become lost, or at best, difficult to find.

Opinions of the MIE curriculum developers concerning the vision and functions of curriculum are not echoed in the reality. What can be deduced are rather schools that are adapting the central curriculum recommended by the Ministry of Education and Human Resources and designed by the MIE to their schools. Finally, what is happening is that each school has their own school-based curriculum run at their own pace based on their students' learning needs, abilities, orientation, as well as their school strengths and needs.

Creators of state standards almost invariably approach the subject firstly from a systematic perspective that is tied to test score results and secondly from a pragmatic perspective as they want to be solution-oriented to fix the immediate needs of the individual or community through empirical means. They assume that teachers will follow the standards as if they are a script. This assumption, however, ignores the reality. The answer to what should be done with state standards depends upon many factors that teachers and school administrators face at any given time.