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Reconceptualizing and Repositioning Curriculum in the 21st C: A Global Paradigm Shift



The paper argues that, currently, curriculum is almost exclusively positioned within the education sector, closely aligned with general education (K-12), with children of K-12 age, and with schools. This limits its significance, role and impact. 

The paper offers a new definition of curriculum as: ‘a dynamic and transformative articulation of collective expectations of the purpose, quality, and relevance of education and learning to holistic, inclusive, just, peaceful, and sustainable development and to the well-being and fulfilment of current and future generations’.  It argues for the reconceptualization and repositioning of curriculum at a sectoral, national, and global level along the following eight key dimensions:
  1. As the first operational tool for sustaining the development-relevance of education;
  2. As a catalyst for innovation, disruption, and social transformation;
  3. As a force for social equity, justice, cohesion, stability, and peace;
  4. As an integrative core of education systems;
  5. As an enabler of lifelong learning;
  6. As a determinant of the quality of education and learning;
  7. As a determinant of key cost drivers of education and learning systems; and
  8. As a lifelong learning system in its own right.
The paper acknowledges that the articulation of curricula is a political and technical process, which determines what, why, when, and how people learn, and thereby influences the future of individuals, communities, countries, and the world. It advises that curriculum development should be an inclusive and consultative process of stakeholder engagement to seek ownership and support far beyond the boundaries of the education sector.  It considers that sustaining the development-relevance of curriculum demands: 1) the articulation of competence-based curricula that learners (young and old) require to survive and thrive in fast changing, disruptive 21st century development contexts; 2) the continuous adaptation of curricula to contextual change; and 3) sustaining the development-relevance of curricula as holistic, inclusive, just, and sustainable.

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