of curriculum content is a crucial dimension of quality education.
The promotion of localized curricula is a way of encouraging such
relevance in very different local, cultural and socio-economic contexts.
It is an important component of the decentralization of education,
governance and management.
The localization of the curriculum can allow learning
to become more meaningful and relevant. It supports policy formulation
and standard setting for reform of the curriculum and the impact
of this on teacher skills and knowledge. Localization will involve
the use of local materials both as the subject and object of instruction.
Localization will also involve making the local culture an integral
part of the curriculum.
However, there are a number of constraints in the
devolution of responsibility for curricula to local levels, including
lack of local technical expertise and material resources, fear of
the unknown and resistance to change among teachers and local educators.
These constraints are often managed through:
- Developing a curriculum framework, including a clear set of
curriculum standards, at the central level;
- Ensuring compliance with these standards in local and school
developed curriculum, either through paper-based accreditation
or endorsement processes or through supervision and monitoring
processes (or both);
- Providing training of local and school based curriculum developers;
- Ensuring clear and open communication exists between central
and localized authorities.
Table 4.1. Examples of global
trends in localization of curriculum.
The primary change in the 1994 curriculum reform is the inclusion
of the local curriculum subject (LCS) as an independent subject
that takes more than 20 % of the curriculum. However, LCS implementation
is problematic. LCS tends to alienate learners’ experiences,
because local is not singular, rural is plural, and district
has different beliefs, perceptions, values, norms, and skills.
Thus it is difficult to decide the LCS as the most “local”
for all. The new curriculum applies “unity in policy and
diversity in practice”. The minimum standard of competency
is centralized (unity in policy) and the curriculum content,
methods and assessment procedure are decentralized (diversity
in practice). This new curriculum attempts to deal with the
overcrowded curriculum through integration, reduction of instructional
time and decentralization of content, methods, and assessment
procedures. It can be said that in the new curriculum –
except the competency and exit performance standard –
everything is localized at school or district levels.
In the 1990s, educational policy in Finland shifted to decentralization
and the granting of more local control to municipalities and
schools, with the intent of encouraging more active, locally
relevant learning. Within national guidelines, each school can
be given substantial latitude for local curriculum design, even
if it has to be confirmed at the municipality level. One important
aspect of the curriculum reform has been to enable the shift
from a didactic teacher-centred philosophy of the previous central
curriculum to a more learner-centred approach to teaching. It
could be said that the development and implementation of the
curriculum influenced teacher views of knowledge, learning,
and education in a more progressive direction, but this change
is not always reflected in the same way in actual teaching practices
at each school, revealing the influence of curriculum leadership,
teacher commitment to the curriculum and the evaluation of the
curriculum in the development of the school-based curriculum.
The greatest challenge to the process of localizing Vocational
Education and Training curricula in Namibia is a preference
by practitioners and educators for a more scientific, academic,
general and standardized vocational education and training.
The traditional paradigm of education and training is characterized
by an overemphasis of high general academic secondary school
requirements for access to training and qualifications and instructor
based delivery and assessment methods and techniques, as against
a focus on work-related competences that are essentially contextual
and relevant to the local socio-economic and geographical and
physical setting. The nature of local industry is based on the
utilization and processing of locally available resources, and
the Namibia Qualification Framework pursues the development
of a diverse range of standards and qualifications as long as
they meet all the guidelines and requirements of the NQF and
the different NQF level descriptors. However, the difficulty
of determining local skills needs and distinguishing between
local and national needs and the complexities involved in the
implementation of a more flexible NQF results in curriculum
centralization and a “one for all” approach.
The Ministry of Education encourages school autonomy, in order
to improve the quality of education provided by the school.
The basic assumption is that the school staff is capable of
developing and formalizing an educational approach, and can
then formulate a school-based curriculum by adapting teaching
and learning methods to local conditions. Greater school autonomy
has had a positive impact on teachers’ motivation and
sense of commitment and on schools’ achievement orientation,
but only 4% of the variance in the effectiveness between autonomous
and less autonomous schools could be explained by school-based
The pupils themselves should be allowed a great deal of initiative
and involvement in planning their studies, while maintaining
dialogue with their peers, teachers, parents and experts. The
school schedule is largely based on allocating units of flexible
time, where different pupils will be occupied with different
subjects or fields. The school is free to structure these units
in accordance with the various characteristics of pupils. The
only constraint on the school’s autonomy in organizing
class schedule is that for each pupil, the time during six school
years is allocated on the basis of disciplines, where each one
has a relative proportion. This proportion can be expressed
by teaching each discipline separately and/or by interdisciplinary
teaching, which combines the methods of different approaches.
A wave of school-based curriculum development started in English-speaking
countries during the 1970s encountered problems because of insufficient
teacher preparation, unchanging school structures, and conservative
community expectations. In parallel with school based curriculum,
and with a similar rationale, school based assessment was introduced
into the education systems in parallel with, or integrated into,
public examination systems as the numbers of students accessing
and remaining in secondary education grew. Since the 1990s most
Australian States have resorted to provide state curriculums
with “essential learning” formulations to help reduce
variability in the students achievement. It is assumed that
because of equity and quality considerations, school based curriculum
cannot deliver the whole curriculum.
The changes in the secondary curriculum around 1998 allowed
each province to produce their curriculum designs. A provision
was made in the timetables to further allow each school to allocate
some 10% of the available teaching hours to an “Institutional
Option” subject, to be defined at school level. The experience
has not increased a lot the relevance of the content taught
to students, in part because of the small proportion of time
allocated for the institutional option, and also because schools
have tried to make use of the already existing teachers, as
there is no freedom to hire teachers at the school level.
Challenges and opportunities
As we have seen, while important, the process of localizing curricula
is challenging on a number of levels. This section seeks to explore
some of those challenges and to consider approaches which may help
to address them.
When embarking on a process of localization, educators
at all levels in an education system are required to adopt additional
responsibilities, new roles and to perform familiar tasks in different
ways. The role and definition of “expert” is changed
as the system and the individuals within it become learners to varying
extents. It is important to acknowledge in advance that such a process
will be stressful, frustrating, and at times difficult, but one
hopes, ultimately rewarding and positive.
If the education system is seen as a learning organization
and the individuals within it as learners, the role of the policy
maker and implementer becomes one of facilitating change and building
capacity throughout the system. Effective localization processes
demand both a clear articulation of policy and a sympathetic understanding
of the new demands on individuals and organizations. Areas where
capacity is not adequate to deal with new demands need to be identified
in advance and given the support necessary to fulfil the expectations
of policy makers and of the public.
Four main areas where practical difficulties may
arise can be identified:
- Lack of competent staff
- Teachers attitudes and potential resistance
- Fear of the unknown
- Lack of resources