IBE and Curriculum Development
‘Curriculum’ can be defined and analyzed in many ways, although most would probably agree that it is at the ‘heart of education’. A broader view of curriculum usually considers at least three interrelated dimensions:
- the intended or official curriculum as defined in guidelines, frameworks and guides that specify what students are expected to learn and should be able to do;
- the implemented curriculum that is actually taught in the classroom, including how it is delivered and who teaches it; and
- the learned or attained curriculum that represents what students have actually learned.
Ensuring coherence and congruence between curriculum policy documents, the actual pedagogical process and learning outcomes is a common challenge faced by educational authorities around the world.
Curriculum development processes
Over the last two decades curriculum innovations and reforms have been driven by rapid technological and social changes, the need to address the new challenges of contemporary life, the renewed emphasis on Education for All and on issues related to quality, equity and inclusion, and the emergence of a knowledge society based on lifelong learning along with the growing emphasis on assessment of performance and greater accountability. Processes of curriculum development therefore need to address local changes but are also influenced by, and increasingly refer to broader, transnational trends and models.
In a period of accelerated technological and social transformations, existing curricula are increasingly perceived as irrelevant, too much based on an abstract, fact-centered, and de-contextualized knowledge. Therefore, curriculum reforms have become a key area of most contemporary educational reforms, both in the North and the South.
There is a growing emphasis on generic competences (‘’knowing how’ rather than ‘knowing that’) that are not discipline- or subject-based, along with a progressive shift of attention towards learning outcomes. New cross-curriculum dimensions and cross-disciplinary subjects are emerging also as a means to address curriculum overload and ensure further curriculum integration, and require profound changes in teacher education systems and curricula. In many contexts where the education system was traditionally centralized and the curriculum was uniformly prescribed nationwide, there is a trend towards greater decentralization of educational management and governance, including a more flexible and localized curriculum. But there is also a trend towards growing centralized control over the curriculum in traditionally decentralized settings through the definition and adoption of national frameworks, standards or guidelines defining core, key or essential learnings and competences for all students.
The IBE promotes a comprehensive approach to curriculum development addressing all relevant aspects, from curriculum policies as part of the overall education decision-making process, to advocacy, development of curricula and learning materials, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of curriculum processes, as well as curriculum assessment.
Instead of imposing predefined models or prescribing solutions applicable everywhere, the IBE facilitates access to different experiences and assists curriculum specialists and relevant stakeholders in gaining new perspectives on complex issues. In this way, they can make their own informed decisions by exploring the advantages and disadvantages of different options in compliance with their own contexts and needs.
The IBE’s approach is based on principles such as:
- building on existing strengths and achievements;
- supporting countries in mobilizing the best local expertise they can actually identify;
- promoting exchanges and knowledge sharing;
- making available the most up-to-date information resources;
- fostering meaningful and productive interactions between local and international experts; and
- encouraging the ownership, participation and creativity of local decision-makers and curriculum developers.