1.1 Preschool Curriculum: What do we mean by a concept of a curriculum? What are the different types?







In this chapter we are going to look at the different definitions of a curriculum. We shall start by learning what the origin of curriculum is, and then look at the different types of curricula.


1.1 Define the concept of a curriculum

Definitions of Curriculum

The term curriculum is a vague and complex notion.  Curriculum theorists do not agree on any definition. Generally speaking, curriculum refers to a course of study.  The term curriculum originates from a Latin word “curere’’ which means “Run”. In this sense curriculum means a course to be run for reaching a certain goal or destination.


Curriculum means different things to different people.  Some of the definitions given by different curricularists are as follows;

  1. Cunningham (1888) says. “Curriculum is a tool in the hands of the artist (teacher) to mould his material (pupils) according to his ideals (aims and objectives) in his studio (school)
  2. Saylor (1988), Curriculum is “A plan for providing sets of learning opportunities for persons to be educated.”
  3. Pratt (1988), Curriculum is an organized set of educational or training-intentions.”
  4. Wiles (1988), Views, “curriculum as a plan for learning whereby objectives determine what learning is important.”
  5. Macdonald (1965) defines a curriculum as a plan for action. i.e a plan which guides instruction.
  6. Shepherd (1988). “The curriculum consist of on going experiences of children under the guidance of the school
  7. Eisner (1988), “points out that “curriculum is a programme a school offers to its students.”
  8. According to Taba (1962) “A curriculum is a plan of learning.
  9. “A curriculum can be defined as the planned educational activities and experiences offered by a school which can take place anywhere at any time.” (Todd in 1965)


Thus, on the basis of the above definitions, one may conclude that curriculum, in its comprehensive sense refers to all the activities and experiences that we plan and organize for children inside and outside school for realizing the aims of education. How we perceive curriculum is important, because our conception of curriculum reflects and shapes how we think and act on education provided to students. The concept of curriculum can be perceived as a connective link between teacher and student, organized in such a way to achieve goals previously set by the teacher, the learning organization or by the curriculum specialists. Generally educators use the term curriculum to refer to various activities which involve learners, teachers and schools.  These activities may be described as:


  1. The sum total of experiences a child goes through as he follows the activities prescribed by the school.
  2. All courses or subjects that a school offers to its learners.
  3. The organization of subjects matter and activities within a course or unit offered by a school for example home science.


1.2 Highlight the various types of curriculum

Types of Curriculum

Below are some of the types of ‘curriculum’. Please note that some of these might be used for non-school educational setting.


a) The official or Formal Curriculum

It is a planned course of study which is also known as the ‘official’ or ‘formal’ curriculum. It is the curriculum that all schools and all teachers ‘plan’ to cover. It is national in implementation.

  • It states the intended, planned, school-based activities of learning.
  • It defines the sequence and progression of the course of activities.
  • It is planned to challenge and stimulate pupils.


This is the curriculum as we understand it as developed by Kenya Institute of Education. The primary syllabus and secondary syllabus are examples. The Guidelines for Early Childhood Development produced by the National Centre for Early Childhood Education is also formal document, but it is more of a guide on education activities that are to be localised than an official curriculum for national use.


b) The Hidden Curriculum

The ‘hidden curriculum’ is what pupils learn that is not planned. It may go unexamined and unrecognised. Through their everyday experiences at school – in the classroom, dining hall, corridors and playground – pupils learn about:

  • Roles of the teacher and of the learners;
  • Attitudes to learning;
  • Status of the teachers and learners;
  • Expectations of teachers and peers in terms of learning and behaviour.

The hidden curriculum can have a profound effect on pupils’ self image and motivation. Pupils’ attitudes towards learning are often picked up from the school ethos. Many schools recognise the importance of the hidden curriculum and understand its influence on pupils’ attitudes to learning and on pupil progress. A school’s mission statement, aims and objectives will often outline how the school intends to affect what children learn.


c) The Observed Curriculum

The ‘observed curriculum’ is what actually takes place in the classroom – the lectures and the activities that can be seen. It may be different from the official curriculum for a number of reasons. Effective teachers sometimes make changes from what was planned during the course of the lecture. However, there should be sound educational reasons for this and in most cases a lecture should follow the plan.


d) The Curriculum as Experienced

This is the curriculum that pupils actually experience. This is what they learn. Most teachers have experience, at some point in their careers, of pupils not learning what they, the teachers, thought they had taught. For this reason, opportunities for recap, reinforcement and plenaries are important to monitor pupils’ learning as the lecture progresses. Many experiences at school have a long-lasting effect; these are more likely to be associated with memorable events such as an educational visit, a school production, handling artefacts provided by museums and a visiting speaker. The provision of ‘different’ experiences can often stimulate interest and act as a springboard for learning.


e) Explicit curriculum.  

It is the part of curriculum which is actually taught.


f) Implicit Curriculum.  

It is what school and other educational institutions teach because of the kind of place they are in.


g) Null Curriculum.

It refers to the part of curriculum that is left out or not taught.  “What schools do not teach may be as important as what they teach” Elliot.  Schools do not have time to teach everything, but they teach what they think is most important.  Curriculum designers do not include everything in curriculum because of limited time. There might be no time to cover everything.  So they choose only what is most important. The content, which is not covered, forms the null curriculum.


h) Informal Curriculum.

It is the unplanned curriculum followed in informal institutions like children’s homes





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