CURRICULUM DEVELOPMENT: Historical foundations of the curriculum.



3a iv). Expostulate the historical foundations of the curriculum.

Historical Foundation of Curriculum

This topic deals with past events, which have led to present trends of education. By analyzing past periods of curriculum, it is possible to view and review the needed curriculum in terms of current and future education needs.

In this topic, the historical foundation is addressed with the Republic of Kenya’s perspective. What contributions has foundation Based on to our education systems and practices? Sources of this contribution are listed as:

  • Foreign influence, especially in communication
  • Contradictions between foreign and traditional ideology in education
  • Greeks classical period on Kenya’s curriculum subjects
  • The reformation period, especially Martin Luther
  • Age of reason, known as the scientific world
  • Return to nature as a way of reconstruction in modern history of curriculum
  • Kenya’s progress in the curriculum during pre and post-independence.

History repeats itself, you will find interesting views, which have come from far in man’s thirst for knowledge to where you are as a student of this day.

Historical foundation of curriculum raises some persisting questions in education such as:

    • How have foreigners (Europeans, Americans and Asians) influenced Kenyan’s education in theory and practice?
    • How has Kenya emerged between traditional and foreign curricula in her education system?
    • What do we mean by the phrase: Under development through a curriculum concept?
    • Which traditional forms of education have persistent in Kneya’s curriculum despite modern forms?
    • Is there a relevant curriculum in Kenya’s Curriculum in Kenya’s system of education? If yes, what is it, if none, why not?

In consideration of African Traditional curriculum, such forms of content were addressed:

    • Rituals and culture patterns
    • Discipline and behavior norms
    • Leadership training and the potentials of leaders
    • Selection and practice of desirable attitudes
    • Doctrinal and non-doctrinal forms of religion
    • Entertainment concept and the theory of survival skills
    • Reliance on group force for unity and collective bargain.

To bring Africa where we are, foreign influence has meandered into African society both directly and indirectly, by periods. These are:

    • Ancient Times: which address individual naturity (Indians), moral values (Chinnese), practical knowledge and civilization of man (Egyptians) and livelihood as an aspect of self-reliance
    • Classical Period: which belonged to the Greeks and passed on knowledge on: self- improvement, education as a continuos process, emphasis on practical experience, national unity concept, introduction of mathematics and science. Liberal arts education which people like: Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Rousseau and Pythagoras pioneered in knowledge areas. Architecture, design, sports, music leisure and laws are also subjects of this period. Worth wisdom service and symposia also appeared.
    • Roman Empire Period: The Romans colonized the Greeks. Greek contributions, formal school system, language for sciences (Latin), literature and humanities were introduced in education. Christianity, the recognition of wisdom, home improvement, generosity and other values of mankind were set up. Education was home, school and community – centered and self-controlled by all was emphasized in this period of the Roman Empire.
    • Christian Period: During the Roman period two religious forces emerged by Jews and Arabs.


  • Christian Period

  1. Christianity which introduced the Bible and catechism for spiritual education, Christianity also paid tribute to the teaching of Jesus Christ and emphasized: moral behavior, ethical God, teacher-based instruction, discipleship, the concept of church, doctrine ship and informal theories of education. Medical doctors and the spread of Christianity were the main contributions.
  2. Islamic Period: Arabs mainly based in Egypt introduced the Islamic religion, mathematics (algebra) science (chemistry and medicine). This period also brought in Arabic language, science of astronomy and business. Architecture (urban planning) was introduced. Morality and behavior were emphasized. Mohamed as a counterpart of Jesus Christ disappeared in Mecca. Arabs Moslem University in Cairo (Al-Ashar) is evidence of the Moslem contribution in education.
  3. Martin Luther and Ignatius of Loyola reformation introduced the idea of constitution, sacred scriptures, uniform instruction and student teaching practice.
  4. Age of Reason: popularly known as the scientific world saw the introduction of solar system (Nicholars Copernicus). Sir Francis Bacon introduced scientific methods, authority of the church, analytic methods, the four introduced the idea of physic based Sir Isaac Newton introduced the idea of physics based on gravitational theory. Amos Comenius introduced the idea of child development and natural methods of teaching (Experience-centered design).
  5. Return to nature introduced a child’s stages of development (Piagets Studies) free play with objectives, specially the cognitive stages of human development:
    • Infancy (upto 5 years)
    • Childhood (from 5-12years)
    • Youth (from 12-15years)
    • Maturity (from 15-20 years)

Some outstanding scholars emerged and addressed the following areas of education:

  • Society needs, child-centered education, order of nature, doctrine of unity and Fredrick Froebel introduced sense of perception. He also addressed the concept of cooperation, manual training and kindergarten education.
  • Immanuel Kent introduced virtues of man to include: obedience, goodness and justice. Johan Pestalozzi introduced physical laws of nature while Montessori introduced the idea of individual instruction, special education of mentally retarded children and sensory training.
  • John Loske (1959 – 1952), a British educationist founded the idea of studying the role of school, society and community. He introduced the study of individual differences for instruction, democratization, occupational education, moral education and the art of teaching as a profession.

The reflection of these historical events moved into Africa and thereafter to East Africa and then in Kenya. For curriculum development purposes, the lessons on historical foundation of curriculum are numerous.

    • Pre-colonial discovers (Christopher Columbus) witnessing the reduction, which split religion into Protestant and Catholic.
    • Events which led to castle schools abolition of slave trade, coming of Christian missionaries with missionary education, training in basic skills the curriculum of 3 R’s (Arithmetic, writing and reading, hospitals and Christian secretariat.

Diagram 3 Events in Kenya

Year Event Product
1920 The Indian Question Legco Representation
1923 White paper Kenya Colonized
1924 Phelps Stoke Commission Practical Education
1925 Advisory Commission
1926 Alliance of Missionaries
(African Inland Mission Church
Missionary Society and United Birth of Alliance School Kikuyu.
Methodist Church)
1939 World War II (the turning point) Founding of Catholic Secretariat for
for secondary or Technical Education
1944 British Education Act Establishment of Kagumo
1948 Training Expansion Soriba Teacher’s College at Maseno
1949 Beacher Commission Establishment of District Education
1955 Higher Education Founding of Royal Technical College
in Nairobi.
1963 Kenya’s Independence Focus on National Education
1964/65 Ominde commission National Unity and Medium of
Instruction to be English language
1965 Sessional paper No.10 African socialism
1966 Kericho Conference Integration of Education
1972 The International Labour Office Education for Employment study of
Kenya’s Education Curriculum
1972 Bassey Commission
1976 Gachathi Commission Education Curriculum to be practical
education for all.
1981 Mackay Commission The 8:4:4 System of Education.
Education for self reliance.
1988 Kamunge Commission Education for Beyond – a vision
and a mission in curriculum
1998 Koech Commission Search for More relevant Education


Many other events took place, but those listed are across section of curriculum progression in Kenya.

Issues for awareness in Kenya’s history of education are:

  • Medium of instruction, national language, official business language, sustainable economy for survival, multipatism and change process, emphasis quality or quantity of education products, search for relevant curriculum and literacy and reading culture.

In the colonial period especially for Kenya and other parts of Africa, Europeans moved in and shared Africa (scramble for Africa). You can read Nyerere’s Book “Education for Self-reliance’, 1967”. Education development programmes were undertaken:

  • Missionary converted Africans into Christianity
  • World wars brought in the need for money, medicines and literacy.

The British finally colonized Kenya. Missionaries served both the African and the Europeans when schools emerged especially after Phelps Stoke Commission (1924). The educational institutions followed; Alliance (1925), Kabaa and Yala (1939), Kagumo Teachers College 91944), Siriba Collge (Maseno University) (1948). Education has reached university status in Kenya. (Education Commission in Kenya).

Education in Africa moved from colonial to independence perspectives. Missionaries, colonial governments and world wars introduced: literacy, money and medicines with religious sects.



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