Malaysian and Steiner Waldorfs Science Curriculum and Practices

Published: Last Edited:

This essay has been submitted by a student. This is not an example of the work written by our professional essay writers.

This chapter aims to provide the role of information about the areas covered in this research. Among them include curriculum, science education, Malaysian and Steiner Waldorf's science education curriculum and the present status of science education. Reviews of past research help developed general idea about the mentioned aspects in the study, whereby this will indirectly explain the importance of conducting this research. However, in this section literature review of Malaysian and Steiner Waldorf's science curriculum was done briefly as they will discuss by the researcher extensively in ensuring chapters.


2.1.1 Definition of Curriculum

In education, there is no exact meaning or definition of 'curriculum' which agreed by the whole members in education. Originates from the Latin word currere, which means or refers to the oval track upon which Roman chariots (Philips, 2008), curriculum in Merriam Webster Online Dictionary is define as the courses offered by an educational institution or a set of courses constituting an area of specialization. From the perspectives of theoreticians and practitioners, curriculum as cited in Philips (2008, p.4) is defined as the following;

Pratt (1980);

Curriculum as a written document that systematically describes goals planned, objectives, content, learning activities, evaluation procedures and so forth.

Schubert (1987);

Curriculum as the contents of a subject, concepts and tasks to be acquired, planned activities, the desired learning outcomes and experiences, product of culture and an agenda to reform society.

Goodlad and Su (1992);

Curriculum as a plan that consists of learning opportunities for a specific time frame and place, a tool that aims to bring about behavior changes in students as a result of planned activities and includes all learning experiences received by students with the guidance of the school.

However, curriculum according to Oliva (1992) can be summarized as the following;

"….that which is taught in school; a set of subjects; content; a program of studies; a set of materials; sequence of courses; a set of performance objectives; a course of study; everything that goes on within a school; everything that is planned by school personnel that which is taught both inside and outside of school directed by the school; a series of experiences undergone by learners in school; that which an individual learner experiences as a result of schooling" (p.5)

2.1.2 Curriculum Approaches

Based on the critical analysis that carried on the definition given by the practitioners and experts, there are three main ways to approach a curriculum (Philips, 2008; Borders, 2006; Smith, 2000). There are; curriculum as body of knowledge or syllabus to be transmitted; curriculum as process; and curriculum as product.

Curriculum as body of knowledge or syllabus to be transmitted is an approach where people tend to assume or perceive curriculum and syllabus as a same entity (Borders, 2006). The major difference between those two which identified, syllabus is basically will gives no indication on the importance of the topic learned or highlighting the arrangement and sequence of the topic that need to be studied (Smith, 2000). Curzon (1985) stated that, those who are so much into the syllabus will have tendency to follow the traditional textbook approach of an 'order of contents' where it makes the teachers to totally follow the order of the prescribed syllabus. Thus it can be said that, those who are employed this approach are more concerned with content (Smith, 2000). Therefore, when curriculum is giving to much focus on the content, in planning lesson, this approach will directly make teachers to create limit so that the lesson will manage to cover the specified content. The instruction wills mainly highlighting the acquisition of facts, concepts and principles of the subject that wish to be transmitted by the teachers (Borders, 2006).

If curriculum is seen as process, the focus is given on the interaction between teachers, students and knowledge (Smith, 2000). According to Philips (2008) curriculum as process is more on what situations happened in the classroom such examples questions and answer session carried by teacher and activities that students engaged during lesson. It is a situation where teaching and learning gives emphasis on the context of a process to occurs. This approach to curriculum does not make learner to be an object, instead the learner have right to say on what is happening during the teaching and learning process (Philips, 2008). The interactions which exist in the classroom will help to shift the focus from teaching to learning. This further supported by Grundy (1987) who argued that the process approach to curriculum have tendency to make teachers to perceive the learning process as the main concern for them to stress on thinking process and create meaningful lesson. To have better view, Stenhouse (1975) used recipe in cookbook as an analogy to explain about this approach. He mentioned, even though the recipe used by the different people was came from the same book, yet the taste of the recipe can be varied. Significantly it just likes a curriculum where it is seen as a scheme which used by different people to practice teaching (Borders, 2006). Another analogy that can be used is classroom as a laboratory, where teacher is a scientist who conducting a test on the ideas brought by the curriculum. Teacher makes hypothesis, and test the hypothesis in classroom. Therefore, teacher cannot blindly accept the idea in the curriculum instead teacher should critically analyze the idea. However, while testing out the process, teacher's ability to carrying out the process might enhance or hinder students' performance (Philips, 2008). In short, curriculum is not an end product yet it has to be verified in the classroom (Smith, 2000).

Approach of curriculum as product is similar as setting up the needs of the students and equipped the students with needs. Therefore, at first those who are approach curriculum as product will tend to ask what are needed by the students, and what have to be taught to them by using curriculum (Philips, 2008). According to Smith (2000) often education is perceived as technical exercise where curriculum flows in sequence. It starts by set up the objectives, then draw up plan for execution, implement the plan, and lastly measure the outcomes (Smith, 2000; Philips, 2008). Hence, a student who filled with knowledge, developed skills, abilities and good values, who can function in effective and efficiently, is the final product of the curriculum. Ralph Tyler (1949) as cited in Smith (2000) said that, to make a real significant change in students' attitudes and behavior is the ultimate purpose of education. Therefore, the design of curriculum made by Tyler gives emphasis on the formulation of behavioral objectives where it provides a clear notion of intended products and the outcomes (Philips, 2008). This help teachers to organized the content and prepare suitable teaching methods so that the outcomes can be assessed. However, this brought concern to the others who view this approach as too dependent on the setting of behavioral objectives since students are told what they have to learn and how they should do it (Smith, 2000).

As a conclusion for the approaches in curriculum, more attention needs to be given to the social context in the curriculum development (Smith, 2000).  This is because there are lots of intellectuals believed that curriculum, without sufficient attention given to the setting and context of a curriculum; it cannot be changed substantially or fully understood (Borders, 2006). In relation with this, Catherine Cornbleth (1990) defined curriculum as a particular type of process where for her curriculum is situation that happens in classrooms, it is social process which continuously happened such as the interactions between the students, teachers, and knowledge (1990: p.5).  Cornbleth strongly believed that curriculum is shaped contextually and to understand the significance of context, one needs to give focus on the social process (Smith, 2000).

2.1.3 Current situation in relation to curriculum

Intensive global competition and fast changing business environment affected and changed the nature of work. For the sake of surviving in globalized world, education has become crucial issue and prioritized to be stressed on by any nation. In developing the skill and knowledge bases, government needs to play important role so that workforces in response to the demand of the workplace could be produced (Callan, 2003). Based on these phenomena, each nation tries the best to plan proper curriculum in response to the impact of increasing competition and pervasive technology. The focus which is given to the new-knowledge based and the emerging new economy creates tremendous impact on education such it gives influence on the planning an implementation of curriculum, the process in education and instructional practices (Sigala & Baum, 2003: Lai & Lin, 2004). Therefore it is important for each nation to decide what kinds of abilities students will need in order to plan appropriate curriculum since it is a design or roadmap for learning and also will help to students to focus on the knowledge and skills that are crucial for them to learn (Chao, et al, 2003). Hence, the curriculum in 21st century supposes to fulfill current demands so that the society will be able to strived and survived in this modernization era.

2.1.4 Curriculum in 21st century

Co-directors of the Change Leadership Group in Havard University, Wagner and Kegan suggested that, curriculum in 21st century should be built on a different set of "new 3 R's" instead of the old fashioned 3R's curriculum which widely known; reading, 'riting, and 'rithmetic ("21st century curriculum", 2007). There are Rigor, Relevance, and Respect. (Wagner et al, 2006). Rigor means to concern on what students capable to at the end of the learning instead of focusing on the content that difficult to master by students. Relevance means to help students to make sense and understand on what they have learned and how to it connected to the next stage in their life such as in higher education or in workplace. Respect means to promote respectful relationships that improve academic and social competence between and among teachers and students.

On the other hand, Perkins (1989) proposed for other notable curriculum which suggested that thinking skills should be taught as a "metacurriculum" and combined with traditional core subjects. This further supported by Tucker and Codding (2002) who strongly encourage schools to adopt a thinking curriculum since the thinking curriculum will provides a deep understanding of a subject and indirectly help students to apply their understanding to the more complex problems, and to their real life especially in future.

In 21st century, to determine the most effective strategies that will use in teaching; the expertise, sources and the needs by specific group, are the things that one needs to consider ("21st century curriculum", 2007). In discussing the approaches that consider as effective, Lucas (2002) explains on the use of Problem-Based Learning (PBL) as a proven approach which able to support and enhance the learning process. Students were advantaged from this approach when they are given with a situation for them to carry out an investigation. Usually the situation given to the students are based on the real world problems, rich and challenging (Lucas, 2002) In addition to that, Knowlton (2003) stressed on the integration between other 21st century components such as cooperative learning and students' reflection with PBL models. This situation allows students to learn by promote learning to the students while they are working with problems. It is due to the situation which requires students think and come out with explanations which could clarify the situation (Knowlton, 2003). By employing PBL in classroom, it helps to enhance students' content engagement, expand the ability of students for self-directed learning, and also increase cooperation and social interaction among students (Knowlton, 2003)

Related to the issue of approach in this millennium time, cooperative learning had been discussed in Marzano et al (2001) as one of the effective approaches in 21st century. This is based on the fact that; the power impact on learning had shown when students where organized in a well-structured group. It is a heterogeneous group which has the advantage to promote leadership, teamwork and other skills that needed in life, and on the same time boost up students' academic performance. The effect of the cooperative learning will have a tremendous effect when teacher make attempt to use real world contexts as part of students' task since it is another important components in 21st century curriculum and instruction (Curtis & Armstrong, 2002). Curtis and Armstrong (2002) further argued on the important of teacher to create meaningful learning activities as it believed to have ability in reducing absenteeism among students, enhance students' cooperation in class, and could stimulates students' critical thinking skills, where it can enhance their academic performance.

According to Bransford et al (2000), meaningful learning is seen as a bridge which helps students to make connection between the things that they had learned in class and the real world issues that related to them. This will somehow cause their level of motivation to increase as well as their learning. However in "21st century curriculum" (2007) mentioned the need of teachers and school leaders to look over a wide area especially outside the school's context to help them to find better ideas, resources, and expertise which can help the school to engaged more on the 21st century curriculum and instruction.

Technology is an important component in 21st century curriculum, too. Therefore, it is important for teachers to integrate appropriate technologies to help their instructional tasks in class. Through the intergradations of technology, learning process could be enriched and enhanced and on the same time content and 21st century skills could be developed (Bransford, et al., 2000). Bransford et al also argued that sometime "appropriate technology" can be a pencil, a book, or even a traditional method, depends on the situation. It indicates that the use of technology in classroom in 21st century is essential, sometime it is not necessary. However, it is undeniable that the integration of technology could promote better learning process (Bransford, et al., 2000) and allow the integration of different sources such as scientific data, online collections, and videos from all over the world into the curriculum. (Bransford, et al., 2000)

To discuss on the curriculum and instruction in 21st century, there is a need to touch on the assessment instead of approaches since it also a part of curriculum. Assessment is important to the teacher as it allows teacher to evaluate the outcomes of the lesson. Through the assessment, teacher will have certain indication of the possible existing learning gaps in lesson and work to bridge the gap to avoid any misconception from occur ("21st century curriculum", 2007). It also suggested that, formative assessment which use tools such as rubrics play a significant role in the 21st century classroom. The guidelines provided to the teachers and students will help to informed them on the acceptable levels of achievement that will be assessed.

Curriculum is the most important part in education; it helps teachers to determine what need to be taught, and how the implementation needs to be carried out. Noted that there is no "exact system" that works best in order to achieve a 21st century education

Science Education

Purpose for science education

From time to time, science education never stops experiencing critical review and examinations even science education has traditionally been associated with a formal academic type of schooling. With the aim to produce future scientists, many articles argued and extremely questioned whether the current science education is enough to meet the needs of society (Millar and Osborne, 1998; SCCC, 1996). United State National Research Council (2000) voiced out similar opinion expressed by John Dewey in early 1910 which he mentioned that science teaching gave too much emphasis on the gathering of information. This somehow is not enough to science as a way of thinking as he perceived science is not only as a body of knowledge to be learned, instead it is more than that (Dewey, 1910).

Previous research (Layton 1973; Millar 1996; Milner 1986; Thomas & Durant 1987) as cited by Osborne and Hennessy (2003) in Literature Review in Science Education and Role of ICT: Promise, Problems, and Future Directions, there are four common arguments for science education purposes namely; utilitarian argument, the economic argument, the democratic argument and the cultural argument (p.11);

The utilitarian: the view that knowledge of science is practically beneficial to everyone.

The economic: the view of the important of providing an adequate supply of scientifically trained individuals to sustain and develop an advanced industrial society.

The cultural argument: the view that science and technology are one, if not the greatest, achievement of contemporary society, and that a knowledge thereof is an essential prerequisite for the educated individual.

The democratic: the argument that many of the political and moral dilemmas posed by contemporary society are of a scientific nature. Participating in the debate surrounding their resolution requires knowledge of some aspects of science and technology. Hence, educating the populace in science and technology is an essential requirement to sustain a healthy democratic society.

Even previous research suggested these four arguments related to the the importance of science education, surprisingly that there were evidence suggests that many students have naïve, superficial views and knowledge on science education (Driver et al 1996; Lederman 1992). Based on the research, students perceived science as a process of conducting experiments to derive data which totally contradict with the real picture of science.

Critiques on Science Education Practices

Robinson (1968) as being cited in Coughlin and Hannafin (n.d) argued for the need to improve the science teaching, so that it will provide learning experiences which almost similar to the way how it was experienced by scientists. In Nature of Science and Science Teaching, Robinson (1968) described the change that occurred in the discipline from the nineteenth century to the twentieth century where the character of nineteenth century science was gave too much emphasis upon accumulation, classification and description of data, and upon interpretation. He argued that, the practices supported the way how most of the people view the world which as a finite, static, homocentric universe, harmoniously arranged in a hierarchical order (Robinson, 1968; p.5) cited in Coughlin & Hannafin (n.d). However during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the pathways of scientific thought diverted from these emphases and changed the scientific knowledge.

In viewing the present science curriculum, he mentioned that the approaches and methods in present science curriculum reflected the practices of earlier science (Robinson, 1968). Even though there were many changes underwent by science education in 20th century, Robinson described 19th century style is still dominant where many students leave science classrooms with a limited and static view of the world. This situation is not supporting current needs as for Robinson believed that the wealth of new knowledge discovered and the invention as results of technology advances are a great challenge for science education as it needs to keep up to date with the new information.

Focus of science teaching should be given not only on the content. This is because science content usually becomes outdated in the amount of time a text book is published (Robinson, 1968). Instead to of focus only on the content, teacher is should give more emphasis on the understanding of the nature of science among the students. Content may become out of date but the nature of science will always help to guide the students to view science in better and appropriate manner. Emphasis on content tends to make teacher to teach directly from the textbook. Research by Linn and Songer argued that teach science directly from the textbook is actually against the nature of science itself. It tends to hinder the processes of scientific discovery and will gives insufficient explanation to the many conflicting observations. By only using textbook to teach, it is afraid to provide students with an inaccurate picture of how research is done (Linn & Songer, 1993).

According to Hills (1989) Science teachers usually concern and focus on careful explication of scientific concepts, the "domestic affairs" of science education leading to the view that science curricula are readily transferable. In contrast, teachers suppose to struggle to find effective formula in order to help students to make sense of science concepts that are often quite foreign. This "foreign affairs" focus is based on two premises.

All science exists in cultural context.

The teaching and learning science is often a cross-cultural activity.

Michael Apple (1998) stressed out to science educators that science education, like other types education, "is deeply implicated in the processes of social and cultural differentiation" (p.428). He further argues that the science education practices and policies indirectly produce and sustained the multiple forms of curricular differentiation. The differentiation has created inequality in educational, social, and economic. Apple also, argues based on a foundation of research on curriculum differentiation which revealed students' characteristics such as social class or ethnicity influence the quality of knowledge constructed in classrooms (Anyon, 1981; Page & Valli, 1990). As the result, the different curricula produce and maintain differing levels of student engagement, achievement, and progress in school (Apple, 1981; Bowles & Gintis, 1976; Gilbert & Yerrick, 1999). In teaching science, approach adopted by teacher must be applicable and appropriate to fit with the environment, ability of the teachers and students. However, the pedagogy adopted somehow relies on the nature of the curriculum proposed. This highlighted by Lewin (1990) where there is evidence to suggest that most of the children who study science in developing country do not master more than a small proportion of the goals set for them. This seems to support that the science curriculum designed varied across the world as it appear to have cultural influenced.

Cobern (1996) mentioned that in any country, science education is somehow a systematic and sustained attempt at communication about nature between a scientific and a nonscientific, or a partially scientific, community, and as such it should be particularly sensitive to the attitudes and presuppositions of both the scientist and the student. However, the process of teaching science is often not too alert to the intellectual environment of the students, especially in developing countries, in line with the fact of development of the science courses which usually developed in a foreign country and later being export to the other countries and have undergone little modification.

In his article, Cobern argued the necessity of certain science syllabus to the different group of students in this world. The example is on program of instruction in botany, which is specifically designed for British children, familiar with an English countryside and English ways of thinking and writing, will never prove equally effective for students in a Malayan village. This is due to the fact that the students in Britain and Malayan are different instead of their ecology. As he concerned on the current situation in science classroom, such as a science teacher carefully explicates a concept yet students still got the wrong interpretations of the concept, Cobern (1996) suggested to science education, to employ constructivism and meaningful learning to help students to make sense of what they learned. In other words, to understand the fundamental, culturally based beliefs about the world that students live and bring to class, and how these beliefs are supported by students' cultures; it is something that very crucial for science educators to take note. This is because science education is successful only to the extent that science can be a part of the students' life that influence the way they think and react (Clement, 1982).

2.2.3 Call for Improvement

In 21st century, students are not supposed to be exposed with only reading, writing and arithmetic, whereby lesson should includes communication, higher problem-solving skills, scientific and technological literacy which can be the thinking tools that allow students to understand the technological world around them. Students from different backgrounds, level of achievements, races and nations, not only tomorrow's scientists and those who are talented and fortunate, all of them need those skills as they need to have a firm grounding in mathematics, science and technology. (National Science Board of US, 1983).

In United States, organizations have developed plans to help improve the quality of the science, mathematics, and technology education for over the past couple of decades. For example in 1985, Project 2061 was developed by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), where it was a plan to make all American high school students literate in science, mathematics and technology by the time they graduated from high school. Therefore, in 1995 the National Science Teachers Association of United State (NSTA) and the National Research Council of United State (NRC) developed the National Science Education Standards (NSES) (Trowbridge et al., 2000). In its attempt, the NSES tried to move towards a classroom that stressed understanding of processes and how science works and move away from emphasized the facts of a science discipline in normal science classroom.

Hence, the NSES makes a clear distinction to distinguish between learning science, learning to do science, and learning about science (NRC, 2000). To increase students' interest in learning science, teaching science should help to stimulate the students' natural curiosity. Instead of teaching lots of facts that seem not interrelated, as is common in many traditional science classrooms, the policy NSES also emphasize broader concepts that go across all disciplines and all levels of science. While on one hand is arguing about the direction and purpose of science education and whether it is effective to create high capability of trained workforce or a critical thinking citizen, on the other hand is consistently examining the best learning and teaching strategies that could be used in science education. In conjunction with the argument there is appear to be some common opinions that stress on the important to understand that classrooms and schools are complex environments each of which can be very different, in terms of social mix, general ability, teacher understanding, attitude and values, school ethos and others.

Osborne and Hennessy (2003), suggested the science curriculum in 21st century should provide students with a god foundation which can help students to foster life-long education. The science curriculum also expected to prepare students for a modern democracy era which aimed to develop science literacy among the students. However, in defining literacy, Gee (1996) mentioned that, to be literate is means to become knowledgeable and completely understand with discourse of the discipline. In short it is the same as how scientists do about science which includes their words, actions and values. It is a knowledge that only can be acquired by students when they were exposed to the practices of scientist (Osborne & Hennnessy, 2003).


This chapter had discussed on the most important parts in this research which is curriculum and science education. Through the review made by the researcher, it is hoped that one will generally gained some insight on towards the topics discussed and understand the reasons for the researcher to conduct this research.