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Modules 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11


Curriculum Development in Higher Education

Reflect on the following as you work through this Module

  1. The Dakar, Tokyo and Beirut Conferences define what is relevance, a definition which fits what has already appeared in UNESCO’s Policy Paper for Change and Development in Higher Education: ‘Relevance is considered particularly in terms of the role of higher education as a system and of each of its institutions towards society. It must thus include matters like democratisation of access and broader opportunities for participation in higher education during various stages of life, links to the world of work and the responsibilities of higher education towards the education system as a whole. No less important is participation by the higher education community in the search for solutions to pressing human problems such as population, environment, peace and international understanding, democracy and human rights’.
  1. The idea that higher education should participate in the improvement of the whole education system appears in the definitions of relevance in the Tokyo and Dakar Declarations, and is mentioned in the Arab States Declaration. In the Latin America and Caribbean Declaration the contributions are expressed in a direct way. It says that ‘most concrete contributions can be made a reality via: training teachers, transforming students into active agents of their training; promoting socio-educational research into such problems as early school drop-outs and students’ repeating courses; and ensuring its contribution to the design of State policies in the field of education’. The Beirut Declaration adds that ‘Arab States should devote determined efforts to improve general education as well as to ensure that graduates of this level of education master the essential competencies needed for life, including those necessary for the pursuit of higher education endeavour. Higher education institutions should actively participate in the efforts leading to the improvement of pre-university education’.
  1. The document adopted in Palermo concentrates its conceptual analysis regarding relevance on the links with the world of work, in particular with industry. A principle is established at the outset: ‘In a labour market which is dynamic and heterogeneous, higher education institutions should not base their long-term orientations on labour market or manpower planning, but on social demand’, which requires that students gain new skills, (such as learning to be entrepreneurial). On this last point, the Havana Declaration states that ‘higher education must implement pedagogical methods based on knowledge, in order to train graduates that learn how to learn and how to undertake; in this way, they will be better prepared to generate their own jobs’. The Arab states document recommends ‘reciprocal harmonisation with world of work, and states that ‘higher education must take a leading role in the evolution of the world of work to better meet sustainable development requirements’.
  1. The Dakar, the Tokyo and Beirut Declarations present definitions of quality, which also fit with the concepts presented in UNESCO’s Policy Paper for Change and Development in Higher education. One basic assumptions is that quality is linked to relevance (in other words, quality has no meaning without relevance as stated in the Arab States Declaration) and that ‘quality is a multidimensional concept which depends to a large extent on the contextual setting of a given system, institutional mission, or conditions and standards within a given disciplines.
  1. The Palermo document proposes that the cultural values, in both European and global contexts, ‘should permeate all higher education curricula, their transmission, especially as far as ethical considerations are concerned, should not be limited to special courses. Special emphasis should be placed on language training, multi-disciplinarity, independent and critical learning associated with team-work. With the help of higher education institutions, this process should start in primary and secondary education’. On values, the Havana Conference asks that the most significant ones be incorporated, including: freedom, human rights, social and ethical responsibility and solidarity.
  1. The African Conference recommends that ‘Member States develop educational programmes capable of meeting the challenges of sweeping societal changes and the principal challenges which Africa is bound to face in the immediate future’. It also recommends that Member States should ‘be convinced that investment in higher education is worthwhile, as long as the institutions are oriented to meet the needs of society’.
  1. The Tokyo Conference suggests that higher education institutions:
  1. ‘give every student the philosophical, historical, psychological and anthropological foundations of knowledge with regard to humankind, its environment and its different societies’.
  1. ‘support research and pilot curriculum projects which provide expertise to facilitate access to modern technology and scientific discoveries, but which also lead to the understanding, appreciation , internationalisation and dissemination of human and societal values, with special attention to the goals of peace and democracy and protection of the environment’.
  1. The Dakar Conference also presents a series of proposals oriented to specific actions by the higher education institutions. In brief:
  1. The Tokyo conference considers that ‘Governments must expand and diversify opportunities for every citizen to benefit from higher-level-skills, training, knowledge and information which are the qualifications for entry into the world of work’.
  • 85. Higher education institutions should promote continuous and interactive partnerships with the productive sector using both reactive and proactive approaches. They must adjust the curriculum to meet the needs of the workplace and ensure that new disciplines and specialisations are incorporated into its content. Also, they must help shape the labour market, on the one hand by identifying (independently of conjuctural (short term) interests of enterprises), new local and regional needs, and on the other hand by designing mechanisms for retraining and career-switching. Curricula should be organised to stimulate the entrepreneurial skills of students. This requires flexible, innovative and interdisciplinary approaches’. Later, the Tokyo conference also proposes that ‘pedagogical programmes should be established to encourage students to be more entrepreneurial and initiative-oriented’.
    1. The Dakar Conference, like the Tokyo and the Beirut Conferences, suggests that Member states create ‘observatories to monitor changes in the labour market in order to facilitate the elaboration of national educational plans and to improve the capacity of higher education institutions to align their policies with national priorities’. For Beirut, the observatories should monitor ‘short and long term trends of the world of work and the harmonisation needed between these trends and higher education policies and programmes’.
    1. The Dakar conference also proposes that institutions of higher education make special efforts to develop scientific and technological programmes to help meet the demands of the accelerated development of new information and communication technologies and notes that this can create virtual universities.
    1. The Palermo document considers that the shift from teaching to learning implies, among other things, ‘a new approach to curriculum development taking into account multi and interdisciplinary, flexibility of choice but in a coherent system which allows for modularisation, credit and transfer, the validation of work experience and the organisation of the academic year in semesters both at national and international level’. For Palermo, this shift implies also ‘self-managed learning, a coaching role for the teacher, professional support services, investment in new delivery and quality assurance mechanisms especially in off-campus operations, which leads to a new definition of scholarship that balances discovery and transmission as well as the integration and application of knowledge’.

    Article11. Qualitative evaluation

  • a. Quality in higher education is a multidimensional concept, which should embrace all its functions, and activities: teaching and academic programmes, research and scholarship, staffing, students, building, facilities, equipment, services to the community and the academic environment Internal self-evaluation and external review, conducted openly by independent specialists, if possible with international expertise, are vital for enhancing quality. Independent national bodies should be established and comparative standards of quality, recognised at international level, should be defined, Due attention should be paid to specific institutional, national and regional contexts in order to take into account diversity and to avoid uniformity. Stakeholders should be an integral part of the institutional evaluation process.

    b. Quality also requires that higher education should be characterised by its international dimension: exchange of knowledge, interactive networking, mobility of teachers and students, and international research projects, while taking into account the national cultural values and circumstances.

    c. To attain and sustain national, regional or international quality, certain components are particularly relevant, notably careful selection of staff and continuous staff development, in particular through the promotion of appropriate programmes for academic staff development, including teaching/learning methodology and mobility between countries, between higher education institutions, and between higher education institutions and the world of work, as well as student mobility within and between countries. The new information technologies are an important tool in this process, owing to their impact on the acquisition of knowledge and know-how.

  • Introduction

    ith the explosion of knowledge and increasing sophistication of technology, higher education programmes need to be frequently reviewed and developed to keep pace with the needs of society and the learners. This module provides a guide to undertaking curriculum development at the higher education level. The module, which consists of four units, clarifies the concepts of curriculum and curriculum development and describes the prevailing practices in curriculum development in higher education. The module also presents the determinants and perspectives of curriculum development in higher education and ends with activities to illustrate what is involved in curriculum development in practice.

    The module has several practice activities and exercises to give an idea of what the various elements of curriculum development are all about. You are encouraged to do these practical activities so as to enhance your understanding of the concept and practice of curriculum development.

  • After completing this module, you should
  • UNIT 1

    At the end of this unit, you should be able to:


    The Concepts of Curriculum and Curriculum Development

    The quest for a definition of curriculum has taxed many educators. Obanya (1996) ascribed ambiguity and lack of precision to the term "curriculum". Olaitan and Ali (1997) observed, "The curriculum field is by no means clear; as a discipline of study and as a field of practice, ‘curriculum’ lacks clean boundaries… Indeed, curriculum seems at times analogous to the blind men’s elephant. It is the pachyderm’s trunk to some; its thick legs to others; its pterodactyl-like flopping ears to some people; its massive, rough sides to other persons; and its rope-like tail to still others.

    The amorphous nature of the word curriculum has given rise over the years to many interpretations. Depending on their philosophical beliefs, persons have conveyed these interpretations, among others:

    What can we deduce from this array of definitions? Perhaps we can see curriculum defined in a narrow sense (as subjects taught) or broadly as all the experiences of learners, both in school and out, that are directed by the educational institution. The implications to be drawn from the differing conceptions of curriculum can vary considerably. The institution that accepts the definition of curriculum as a set of subjects faces a much simpler task than one that takes upon itself responsibilities for experiences of the learner both inside and outside the institution.

    Where do we go from here? For the purpose of this guide, let us take the curriculum to be the set of activities that are geared towards the achievement of that institution’s educational goals. All the inputs into an institution are intended to support the implementation of the curriculum and some of the outcomes of the implementation process include developed talents, acquired knowledge and skills and improved intellectual abilities.

    The curriculum of an educational institution deals with all the scheduled activities undertaken in that institution. Where any of these aspects is deficient, the curriculum becomes inadequate and therefore a subject of improvement and/or revision. Advances in knowledge and technology also make curriculum revision necessary by including in college programmes the new and relevant developments to keep pace with the needs of society. In some cases, a new subject may need to be added to the existing programme and this new subject should be developed using existing materials in similar programmes elsewhere as resources.


    Box 3.1. Concepts in Curriculum and Curriculum Development

    Concept Approximate meaning
    Content Body of knowledge contained in a course
    Syllabus List of topics arranged in sequence
    Scope The level to which a topic can be taught
    Sequence The arrangement of topics in order
    Aims Broad statement of what is intended to be achieved
    Goals What is hoped to be attained
    Core Curricula Courses/subjects that are of absolute necessity

    in a programme of study

    Integrated curriculum A set of subject fused together in which the

    traditional boundaries between subject areas are broken

    Teaching Resources Materials and activities used by teachers in their

    classroom transaction

    Optional/electives Courses/subjects to be elected by students


    Examine the following definitions of the term CURRICULUM:

  • (a) The plans for the teaching and learning of a specific subject in school;

    (b) Official regulations on what schools should teach, the books they should use, how much work they should cover in a given period, etc.

    (c) A mixture of all the activities that a school involves its students in;

    (d) Details of what examiners require students to learn;

    (e) The entire syllabus for student work in school;

    (f) The act of constantly adjusting school activities to the changing goals determined by changing times.

  • Arrange (a) - (f) in an ascending order (1-6), representing the order in which each statement best describes the term CURRICULUM.

    How have you re-arranged the definitions? Encircle the correct ordering

    a....................... 1 2 3 4 5 6

    b....................... 1 2 3 4 5 6

    c....................... 1 2 3 4 5 6

    d....................... 1 2 3 4 5 6

    e....................... 1 2 3 4 5 6

    f........................ 1 2 3 4 5 6

    Is Curriculum Development Needed in Higher Education?

    In Africa, most institutions of higher learning that were established during the colonial period had their curricula patterned along models of the colonising countries. This state of affairs remained largely unchanged even after the countries gained independence. The curriculum of higher educational institutions in countries where this situation existed were designed to serve the needs of the system that was operating at the time. Since independence and the establishment of African administrative structures, the curriculum in these institutions have been found to be inappropriate and this necessitated the development or revision of higher education curriculum, as a way of improving the system of education. This is the major reason for curriculum revision, improvement and indeed development in many countries in Africa.

    Box 3.2. Major Reasons for undertaking Curriculum Development in Higher Education

    2. Improvement of what is taught in higher education by revising and including current and relevant content matter.
    4. Placing higher education in its local milieu from the western European context that was kept in view when transplanting educational practices in Africa.
    6. Filling the gaps that currently exist in higher educational programmes.
    8. Responding to the needs of society.
    10. Responding to research evidence from internal and external efficiency studies of the higher education sub-sector.


    Changes in society tend to immediately require corresponding changes in the curriculum of higher education institutions presumably because it is the end of formal education and the last opportunity for entry into the world of work. Besides, higher education has the capacity to constantly investigate itself in order to make adjustment to improve both its internal and external efficiency. Also, new developments in various fields and new thinking and visions may necessitate changes in the curriculum in higher education. For instance, the Declaration of the Jomtien World Conference on Education brought with it a number of curriculum changes in the education field including higher education. Firstly, the Declaration gave special prominence to the training of teachers in special education for the physically and mentally handicapped. This meant the development or revision of a teacher-training curriculum in special education. Also, higher educational institutions in some countries were assigned the task of training teachers in subject areas like technical and vocational education, and national languages. Curricula in teacher training in these subject areas were developed in order to have sufficiently diversified school curriculum that will engage all the children in various countries. In a similar way, major advances in biological, medical and physical sciences led to revision of courses in the field.

    There may be other reasons for undertaking curriculum development in the higher education sub-sector. State four of these reasons and describe whether they have influenced the onset of a curriculum development project in your country.

    Curriculum Development and Domains of Learning

    A commonly used model or design of curriculum development is based on the taxonomy of educational objectives by Benjamin Boom and a group of colleagues from the University of Chicago. Bloom’s taxonomy presents a system for classifying educational objectives into three broad categories called domains (cognitive, affective and psychomotor). These domains are in turn further classified into sub-categories. The cognitive domain is concerned with behaviours related to thinking or manipulating while the affective domain is concerned with attitudes and values and the psychomotor domain with learned muscular responses. The cognitive domain is most developed and it is divided into six sub-categories. The cognitive domain of this taxonomy is reproduced in Box 3.3.

    Box 3.3. Educational Objectives : Cognitive domain


    .1 knowledge of specifics

    .11 knowledge of terminology

    .12 knowledge of specific facts

    . 2 knowledge of ways and means of dealing with specifics

    .21 knowledge of convention

    .22 knowledge of trends and sequences

    .23 knowledge of classification and categories

    .24 knowledge of criteria

    .25 knowledge of methodology

    .3 knowledge of the universals and abstractions in the field

    .31 knowledge of principles and generalisations

    .32 knowledge of theories and structures


    .10 Translation

    .20 Interpretation

    .30 Extrapolation

      2. ANALYSIS
      3. .10 Analysis of Elements

        .20 analysis of Relationships

        .30 Analysis of organisational principles

      4. SYNTHESIS
      5. . 10 Production of a unique communication

        . 20 Production of a plan or proposed set of operations

        .30  Derivation of a set of abstract relation


    . 10 Judgement in terms of internal evidence

    . 20 Judgement in terms of external criteria

    Most of curriculum development in higher education has to do with the knowledge that is transmitted and the manner of doing so. The above taxonomy of educational objectives is handy because it gives a framework for the statement of objectives. The affective and psychomotor domains have not been as clearly defined but are equally the concern of curriculum developers.





    Box 2.4. Sub Categories of the Affective domain of Educational Objectives



    .1 Awareness

    .2 Willingness to receive

    .3 Controlled or selected attention


    .1 Acquiescence in responding

    .2. Willingness to respond

    .3.Satisfaction in response

    2. VALUING

    .1 Acceptance of a value

    .2.Preference for a value

    .3. Commitment


    .1 Conceptualisation of a value

    .2. Organisation of a value system


    .1 Generalised set

    .2 Characterisation


    Models of Curriculum Development

    There are several models of curriculum development. An attempt to describe the various models oftentimes leads to confusion. To avoid falling into the confusion trap, we have settled for three of the well-known models. These models are:

    The Objective Model

    This model is influenced by behavioural psychology and makes use of objectives expressed in behavioural terms. According to this model, there are five major stages in curriculum development:

    1. Stating General Aims, Goals and Objectives: This stage is the entry point in the model and it is derived from the national philosophy of education. Aims are formulated in line with the wider social context in which learning is taking place, hence they should be influenced by society’s accepted needs and values. The aims of higher educational institutions are embodied in their mission statements enacted by parliament at the time the institution was founded. Goals and objectives are also formulated in line with the general policy framework.

    2. Selection of Content: After stating aims, goals and objectives, the next line of action using the objectives model is to select content. The content to be taught in a higher educational institution is usually decided upon by the higher education institution’s authorities who set up the programme. Where the curriculum is to be improved or revised the existing content is reviewed by adding new topics that have become essential. If an entirely new course is to be developed a survey of what should be offered to fulfil the stated goals is undertaken.

    3. Selection of learning experience: Experiences to be provided to learners in order to achieve the content identified are spelt out. These will range from lectures to field trips and laboratory or other practical exercises. Learning experiences are essential for each content area to be taught.

    4. Organisation and matching of learning experience with context: Each learning experience must be matched with the appropriate content area. These are then organised in sequence indicating the scope of the content to be covered.

    5. Evaluation stage: This enables the implementers of the curriculum to determine the effectiveness of the curriculum and then to make modifications. This stage thus prepares the ground for the commencement of further curriculum development activities. The evaluation stage examines the extent to which the objectives are realised in practice thereby indicating the effectiveness or otherwise of the curriculum.

    This five staged objective model is cyclic and can be represented diagrammatically as follows:


    The Process Model

    This is a model of curriculum development in which content as well as principles and procedures are specified rather than anticipated outcomes in terms of objectives. In this approach to curriculum development, the content selected represents a particular form of knowledge which is intrinsically worthwhile. The content shows important procedures, key concepts and criteria inherent in a field of knowledge. The choice of content is not dependent on students' behaviour to which it might give rise but on the degree to which it reflects the form of knowledge.

    Developing a curriculum using the process model involves devising teaching methods and materials which are consistent with the principles, concepts and criteria inherent in such activities. In this design, the process is specified (i.e. the content being studied, the methods being employed and the criteria inherent in the activity). The end product is not specified before hand in terms of behaviour but can be evaluated using the criteria inherent in the field of knowledge. If, for instance, you define the content of a philosophy course, define what constitutes a philosophically acceptable teaching procedure and articulate standards by which a student’s work is to be judged you will be planning rationally without using objectives. And this is what the process model is about. Behavioural objectives are absent, and the teacher does not promote any particular point of view of response from students. In place of objectives, the emphasis is on defining acceptable principles of procedure for dealing with such issues. The stages in this model are not successive as in the objective model.



    Box 3.5. Stages in the Process Model of Curriculum Development


    Only the organisation and matching of content with learning experience is absent from the process model, all the other stages correspond to stages in the objectives model.

    The Situation Analysis Model

    This model puts curriculum development firmly within a contextual framework. It views curriculum development as a means where teachers modify and transform learners’ experiences through providing knowledge of each specific situation. The model underlines the importance of the curriculum development process and its inevitable political character as different pressure groups and ideological interests seek to influence the process of education. In this model, recommendations about the curriculum are made separately for each institutional situation as these are assumed to be unique. It makes specific provisions for different planning contexts including a critical appraisal of the institutional situation as one of its most crucial features. The model is based on the assumption that focus for curriculum development should be on the context where learning is taking place including national, and societal and institutional. Of concern also is the institution and its teachers. Institution-based curriculum development is one of the most effective ways of promoting genuine change at institutional level. This is where curriculum experts go to the institution, work with its teachers to develop the curriculum or improve the teaching of the subject.

    The stages in this model are:

    Situation analysis which involves a review of the situation and an analysis of the interacting elements. External factors to be considered are broad social changes including ideological shifts, parental and community expectations, the changing nature of the subject and the potential contribution of teacher support systems such as senior colleagues and specialised institutions. Internal factors include the learners and their attributes, teachers and their knowledge, skills, interests, materials, resources and perceived problems.

    Goal Formulation: The goals are derived from the outcomes or results of the situational analysis.

    Programme building: This comprises the selection of subject matter, the sequencing of teaching and learning episodes, the development of staff and the choice of appropriate supplementary materials and media.

    Interpretation and Implementation: This is where practical problems involved in the introduction of a modified curriculum are anticipated and tackled as the implementation proceeds.

    Monitoring, Assessment Feedback and Reconstruction: This involves a much wider concept of evaluation than determining to what extent a curriculum meets its objectives. Tasks here include providing on-going assessment of progress of a wide range of outcomes (including learners attitudes and the impact of the institutions organisation) and keeping adequate records based on responses from a variety of participants.

    Select a section of your subject area of specialisation, and develop these into a rational curriculum package using the three models of curriculum development. Compare the three curriculum packages developed and select the one you would prefer to use in your classroom.

    Stages in Curriculum Development - A Hybrid Model

    As noted by Okebukola (1997), a hybrid model that features elements of the objective, process and situation analysis models is made up of the following steps:

    Diagnosis of needs - The curriculum development group begins by determining the needs of the society, institution, the students and subject matter that the proposed curriculum hopes to address.

    Formulation of objectives -After needs have been diagnosed and identified, the curriculum planning team specifies objectives to be accomplished.

    Selection of content - The group of experts and users select content for the curriculum in line with the formulated objectives.

    Organisation of content - With the selection of content goes the task of deciding at what levels and in what sequence the subject matter will be placed. Maturity of learners, their readiness to confront the subject matter, and their levels of academic achievement are factors to be considered in the appropriate placement of content. The methodologies or strategies by which the learners become involved with the content must be chosen by the curriculum planners.

    Organisation of learning activities - The curriculum group decides how to package the learning activities and in what combinations and sequences they will be utilised.

    Determination of what to evaluate and of the ways and means of doing it -The curriculum planning group selects from a variety of techniques, appropriate means for assessing achievement of students and for determining whether the objectives of the curriculum have been met.

    Pilot Testing: Testing the draft curriculum using a sample of the target group of users.

    Revising and consolidating: The units are modified on the basis of pilot test data to take cognisance of variations in student needs and abilities, available resources, and different styles of teaching so that the curriculum may suit all types of classrooms.

    Approval by Faculty, Senate and Governing Council: Approval is sought at the appropriate level for the curriculum in line with the guidelines applicable in the higher institution.

    Use of the approved curriculum: The approved curriculum is put to use in the higher institution.

    Periodic review: The curriculum is subjected to periodic review and evaluation.

    Two groups of educators A and B are on some tasks. Compare the activities of GROUP A educators with those of GROUP B as described below:


    Students are found not to cope well with scientific disciplines. Science is thus immediately removed by law. It will be taught at a higher level.


    Students, teachers, parents are questioned on the science programme (its link with life out of school and with other school subjects). The qualifications, attitudes, and teaching methods are examined. School facilities are also studied. Examination scripts are studied to see what specific areas pose problems to teachers and learners. A committee of experts (teachers, parents etc) looks at all the reports. New objectives are then fixed for science education and other decisions are taken in relationship with the new objectives.

    (ii) Which of the two groups is carrying out a more acceptable curriculum work and why?

    (iii) What are the advantages and disadvantages of the approach of the group you have chosen?

    (iv) Would you say that the other approach is entirely useless?

    (v) To what extent would the approach you prefer work in your immediate environment?



    Decision as to design made by curriculum planning group.



    The curriculum plan includes alternative modes with suggestions as to resources, media, and organisation, thus encouraging flexibility and more freedom for the teacher and students.


    Decisions as to evaluative procedures for determining learner progress made by teacher. Decisions as to evaluate the curriculum plan made by the planning group. Evaluative data become bases for decision making in further planning.


    Fig. 3. 2: Process of Curriculum Development




    Study the following SEVEN phases of systematic curriculum development. Compare with the five cyclical stages described on page ?

    P = Planning phase, during which the new idea is discussed, all its implications are studied, and strategies for putting it into effect are worked out.

    C = Conception phase, during which an idea is thought about.

    T = Try-Out, during which the new curriculum package is studied to see if its principles make sense in practice.

    D = Development, during which methods are selected, materials assembled to fit content and objectives.

    R = Revision, during which field experience is used to enrich the original package.

    M = Monitoring, an unending process that goes on even after the curriculum message is known to everybody.

    Ds = Dissemination, during which the revised package is used by a larger number of institutions.

    (a) Arrange the seven to represent a logical sequence.








    (b) Which of these phases really represents IMPLEMENTATION of a new curriculum?

    Curriculum Implementation is an exercise which combines SENSITISATION, INTERNALISATION, and PARTICIPATION. This has been called the S-I-P theory.

    (a) To what extent do you think that the S-I-P theory can improve the process of curriculum implementation in higher education in your country?



    Modules 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11








    The Concept of Curriculum Needs Assessment: Learner Needs

    Peter Okebukola

    One of the early steps in the development of a curriculum is the assessment of the needs of the target group of users of the curriculum. Need is used in many ways in the education literature. At one extreme, terms such as felt needs or expressed needs are used to refer to those needs of which the learner is conscious or to requests for help in solving problems or meeting situations. At the other extreme, there are those who put the stress on societal needs - those attitudes, knowledge, and skills that society demands of its citizens whether or not learners are aware of these demands. Neither definition alone provides an adequate interpretation of the concept of needs for the purposes of curriculum development.

    The curriculum worker must be aware of three kinds of needs. First, the learner has needs in the sense of purposes which he or she accepts as his or her own and pursues. This is similar to the concept of felt needs, but more inclusive. Learners can be helped to identify and to accept goals of the importance of which they have not been aware. Second, the learner has needs in the sense of developmental tasks which are set by his or her developmental stage in relation to the society in which he or she is growing up. Third, there are so-called basic needs or psycho-social needs within the individual that cause him or her to seek certain goals related to his or her biological nature.

    What does this total concept of learners’ needs mean for the curriculum worker? Certainly the implications are much broader than the terms felt needs or expressed needs would imply. While the preceding discussion has indicated that the learner is dynamic and active, seeking goals and responding to experience in terms of these goals, there is nothing to imply that the school should withhold guidance until the individual is conscious of or has expressed his or her need. On the contrary, there is the definite implication that teachers have an obligation to study learners, to give help in meeting needs of which they are not conscious, and to help them become more sharply aware of other goals.

    The objectives of needs assessment are twofold: (1) to identify needs of the learners within the context of the needs of the larger society that are not being met by the existing curriculum; and (2) to form a basis for revising the curriculum in such a way as to fulfil as many unmet needs as possible. The conduct of a needs assessment is not a single, onetime operation but a continuing and periodic activity.

    The higher education student of today and the institutional environment have characteristics that are different from those of the 60s and 70s. Thus, the needs of students in higher institutions in present-day Africa are different from the needs students used to have in the past. Societal needs also keep changing. For a good person-environment fit, it is expedient to systematically assess the needs of present-day students as a prelude to developing curricula. If this is not done, we may end up using what has been described as "yesterday’s inappropriate tools to solve today’s problems."

    Excerpted from

    Okebukola, P.A.O. (1997). Needs and Assessment and Curriculum Development in Higher Education. Presented at the UNESCO Workshop on Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, Nairobi, Kenya.






    A Common Practice

    In many higher institutions, the development of a new course or programme of studies is initiated by the subject department. Here, specialist academics put together topics as they know them to have been taught elsewhere. The department presents these to the Faculty or Academic Board where approval essentially gives authorisation for the course to start. The higher bodies of the institution, like the Senate and Governing Councils in the case of Universities, endorse the decision of the Faculty Board under normal circumstances. These activities are part of curriculum development in higher education.

    There are three types of curriculum commonly used in educational institutions. The first is one in which all subjects or courses are treated as equal. The second is an integrated curriculum in which several subjects are fused together in such a way that the identities of the individuals are lost. Integration of subjects is done so that teaching and learning become more meaningful and applicable in the real world. Some groups of subjects bear a lot of relationship to each other and are considered by many specialists to be more effective if they are fused together. The case in point is that of the natural sciences (physics, chemistry and biology). These subjects are often considered to have artificial boundaries between them and that since, in the real world we do not use them separately it is better if they are fused together as Integrated Science and taught accordingly. A second example of a group of subjects that have often been fused together at the school level is the social science group, (geography, history, civics etc). However, the extent to which these groups of subject are treated in integrated form in higher education is low.

    The third is the core curriculum. This is the course or set of courses that are deemed to be the main components of a programme of studies. These courses or subjects are expected to constitute the programme of studies under normal circumstances. They are required for the provision of the general skills, attitudes and knowledge required by a programme of training. In a programme of studies or training where a core curriculum is provided there is usually another set of courses or subjects referred to as elective or optional subjects. The prescribed selection of optional subjects plus the core gives the student the full dosage of the programmes.






    Box 3.6. Two types of Curricula


    Core Curriculum Integrated Curriculum

    Mathematics General Science

    Language (English) Communication skills

    Philosophy Research Methods




    Glossary of concepts in curriculum and curriculum development

    Curriculum: The entire set of activities scheduled to ensure achievement of the goals and aspirations of a system of education in a nation state or institution

    Curriculum Development: The identification and organisation of a set of activities scheduled to ensure the achievement of the goals and aspiration of a system of education based on an existing design or model.

    Core Curriculum: A set of courses or subject that is of absolute necessity in a programme of study. The core is usually the set of subject that must be done by everybody because it is required by all areas of specialisation.

    Electives/Optionals: These are subjects or courses that the learner can add on to the core subject or courses. The learner has choice of selection.

    Integrated Curriculum: A set of subjects fused together by breaking the traditional boundaries between them.

    Teaching resources. Materials and facilities used by teachers in their classroom transaction

    Goals. Global statements of intentions and aspirations

    Aims. Broad statements of what is intended to be achieved

    Objectives Specific behaviours to be produced as a result of exposure to some

    Sequence. The arrangement of content in an order

    Scope. The level to which a topic can be taught

    Syllabus. List of topics arranged in a sequence

    Content. Body of knowledge contained in a course

    Taxonomy. A classification of teaching objectives into broad categories and sub-categories

    Cognitive domain: A category of educational objectives concerned with behaviours related to thinking or manipulation of abstract symbols

    Affective domain: A category of educational objectives that is concerned attitudes and values

    Psychomotor domain: A category of educational objectives that is concerned with leaned responses

    Evaluation: The collection and analysis of objectively measured data and their use to reach a judgement on an educational practice or experience.






    At the end of this unit, you should be able to:


    Prevailing Practices of Curriculum Development in Higher Education

    A common practice of curriculum development in higher education is the construction or revision of syllabuses for new or existing courses. Many courses in higher education in Africa were transplanted from western Europe or the United States of America and the only form of curriculum development undertaken in respect of these courses is the revision of what already exists so as to reflect the African context. Another form of curriculum is the inclusion of new developments in the field of study resulting from research and public declarations into existing programmes.

    Emphasis on the development and use of African languages in Declarations such as the Lagos Plan of Action has made several African universities start research projects in African languages and develop these languages through research and experimentation. For example, the use of Yoruba as a medium of Instruction in primary schools was experimented and developed by the Faculty of Education, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Nigeria. The Declarations also expand the subject areas of higher education because the emphasis on the use of African languages led to studies of certain large language groups in Africa for use as medium of instruction. Today, many African higher educational institutions teach national languages and used some of these languages are used as subjects of research for higher degrees. In 1996, a Declaration was made in Accra, Ghana on the promotion and use of African national languages in education. In some cases, central governments specific request to a higher educational institution to mount specific programme of studies.

    Some of the successful models of curriculum development in higher education are found when the development is originated from within the institution. Also, education policy documents by the Ministry of Education have been found to be effective in promoting curriculum revision and development in higher education.

    The development of courses in higher education in many instances involves the listing of topics for the several years for which the course is made to run. Rigorous curriculum development procedures are hardly adopted in these course development exercises. Prevailing practices in curriculum development in higher education is therefore limited largely to syllabus construction or revision.





    The stages you went through in performing this task were most likely as described in Box 3.8.

    Box 3.8. Prevailing stages in curriculum development in higher education in Sierra Leone

    2. Initiative for curriculum revision or development coming from your department.
    4. Draft of proposed curriculum sent to the Faculty/Academic Board for discussion and approval.
    6. Approved document from the Faculty Board is sent to Senate.
    8. Approved document from Senate with the financial implications is sent to the Ministry of Education for ratification for cabinet.
    10. The approved document from cabinet is returned to the Ministry of Education for information of the University.

    Where a course in existence is to be revised, authority for the revision comes from the Faculty Board and does not go through the same stages as those of the mounting of a new course or programme of studies. In only a few instances are the systematic approaches to curriculum development using established design used.

    Curriculum Development in Higher Education

    Uduogie M.O. Ivowi

    Current Practice

    Curriculum content in higher education is mainly course outlines with content selection based on the topical approach. Because the lecturer is familiar with the course or is the originator of the course, known topics are included to define the features of the course. General objectives of the course, equipment to be used and other strategic factors are however provided to guide operators of the system. The scope of the course outline depends on the originator or lecturer; and reference is usually made to the outline used previously or an existing one elsewhere. Acceptance of content details depends on individual lecturer’s impression, interpretation and interest. A course taught by two different lecturers in the same institution to different students could contain radically different topics and contents. It may be worse if different institutions are compared. While some basic concepts may be common, their application and interactions may vary according to the emphasis of the lecturer. While it is true that only specialists teach the course and so should know the content of the topic, the fact remains that the extent to which any lecturer can go depends on him/her unless there is a detailed description of the content coverage.



    Curriculum Content Format

    A few reasons have been given for the need for a change from the course outline format for curriculum content in higher education to one that should contain more details of the content, objectives and the use of sound theoretical basis for the selection and organisation of content. Instead of the current elements of topic, and content, we advocate themes, objectives, topics, content and evaluation/assessment guide. The theoretical basis for content selection is the use of any of four approaches. Details are in Ivowi (1995).

      2. Topical approach – leads to many topics (much content) based on knowledge and experience. No clear relationship among content elements.
      4. Conceptual approach – leads to fewer content clustering around major and sub-concepts and their interactions. Relatedness of content elements is emphasised.
      6. Thematic approach – being a combination of concepts (i.e subsuming of concepts) has most of the advantages of conceptual structure plus flexibility in terms of innovative ideas without necessarily being overloaded.
      8. Modular approach – leads to complete units of instruction that provide employable skills. This is the common approach in technical and vocational courses e.g National Board for Technical Education (NBTE) of Nigeria’s programmes.

    The thematic approach is recommended for content selection. We are very familiar with the use of themes and sub-themes at conferences, seminars and workshops; so generating appropriate themes and sub-themes for our courses should be fairly easy. As regards content organisation, the spiral approach is recommended; and in fact, it is what is being used in higher institutions whereby courses are graded in order of difficulty or complexity (e.g. solid state physics I and II). In the proposed format, the following will feature: theme, topics, objectives, content and evaluation. The three additions here are themes, performance objectives and assessment guide. The performance objectives are particularly important. Given the intellectual level of the students and their access to literature, this will give them direction in their studies and so make them to prepare more adequately for the courses. The assessment guide gives very specific and clear indication of the level at which a test should be pitched in a domain.

    Excerpted from:

    Ivowi, U.M.O. (1998, September). Curriculum development in higher education. Presented at the UNESCO Workshop on Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, University of Ibadan, Nigeria.

    Comment on the Course Outline below and relate to Reading 3.2.






    Lecturer: Professor X


    The technique for determining what the learner knows or does not know is an important skill for teachers. More importantly is the skill for developing and validating various instruments for assessing learner behaviour and the interpretation of data so gathered. The primary goal of this course, therefore, is to provide practical experiences in the preparation and administration of tests, questionnaires, interview guides and observation instruments and the interpretation of data gathered from the use of these instruments.


    At the completion of the course, students should have acquired competence in the following:



    Basic Issues in Tests and Measurement in Education

    Why do we measure in education? Clarifying/differentiating between the terms – measurement, assessment, tests and evaluation. Usefulness of tests. Types of tests.

    Planning Classroom Tests

    Stages in planning classroom tests. Test blue-print development following familiarity with Bloom’s taxonomy.

    Strengths and weaknesses of tests

    Merits and demerits of essay-type tests. When to use essay tests. Merit and demerits of completion, true/false, matching and multiple – choice tests and when to use them. Performance test- what they are and their strengths and weaknesses.

    Construction of essay, objectives and performance tests

    Guidelines for writing essay, objective and performance tests. Practicum in test construction – from test blue print to construction of test papers.

    Construction of questionnaires, interview guides and observation schedules

    Techniques for constructing questionnaires (Likert-type and Osgood Semantic Differential), interview guides and observation schedules. Questionnaire administration and scoring.

    Item analysis, determination of validity and reliability

    Computation and interpretation of item difficulty and discrimination indices. Procedures for validating instruments-face, content, construct, predictive and concurrent. Procedures for determining the reliability of instruments – test-retest, split half, Cronbach alpha and Kuder-Richardson.

    Scoring/grading and reporting learner performance

    Preparation of marking schemes/guides. Techniques of scoring/grading scripts. Guidelines for reporting learner performance.


    Course Assessment: Attendance…………... 5%

    Project ………………25%

    Examination …………70%


    Some Practical Hints on Course Development and Implementation


    Provide basic information. Include the current year and semester, the course title and number, the number of units, the meeting time and location. Indicate any course meetings which are not scheduled for the assigned room. List your name, office address (include a map if your office is hard to locate), office phone number, email address, website URL, fax number, and office hours. For your office hours, indicate whether students need to make appointments in advance or may just stop in. If you list a home telephone number, indicate any restrictions on its use (for example, "Please do not call after 10 p.m.").

    Describe the prerequisites to the course. Help students realistically assess their readiness for your course by listing the knowledge, skills, or experience you expect them to already have or the courses they should have completed. Give students suggestions on how they might refresh their skills if they feel uncertain about their readiness.

    Give an overview of the course's purpose. Provide an introduction to the subject matter and show how the course fits in the college or department curriculum. Explain what the course is about and why students would want to learn the material.

    State the general learning goals or objectives. List three to five major objectives that you expect all students to strive for: What will students know or be able to do better after completing this course? What skills or competencies do you want to develop in your students?

    Clarify the conceptual structure used to organise the course. Students need to understand why you have arranged topics in a given order and the logic of the themes or concepts you have selected.

    Describe the format or activities of the course. Let students know whether the course involves fieldwork, research projects, lectures, discussions with active participation, and the like. Which are required and which recommended?

    Specify the textbook and readings by authors and editions. Include information on why these particular readings were selected. When possible, show the relationship between the readings and the course objectives, especially if you assign chapters in a textbook out of sequence. Let students know whether they are required to do the reading before each class meeting. If students will purchase books or course readers, include prices and the names of local bookstores that stock texts. If you will place readings on reserve in the library, you might include the call numbers. If you do not have access to the call numbers or if it makes to reading list look too cluttered, give students as their first assignment the task of identifying the call numbers for the readings. Let students know that this will make it easier for them to locate each week's readings, and more importantly, it will give them practice in using the library's electronic resources.

    Identify additional materials or equipment needed for the course. For example, do students need laboratory or safety equipment, art supplies, calculators, computers, drafting materials?

    List assignments, term papers, and exams. State the nature and format of the assignments, the expected length of essays, and their deadlines. Give the examination dates and briefly indicate the nature of the tests (multiple-choice, essay, short-answer, take-home tests). How do the assignments relate to the learning objectives for the course? What are your expectations for written work? In setting up the syllabus, try to keep the workload evenly balanced throughout the term.

    State how students will be evaluated and how grades will be assigned. Describe the grading procedures, including the components of the final grade and the weights assigned to each component (for example, homework, term papers, midterms and exams). Students appreciate knowing the weighting because it helps them budget their time. Will you grade on a curve or use an absolute scale?

    Discuss course policies. Clearly state your policies regarding class attendance; turning in late work; missing homework, tests or exams; make-ups; extra credit; requesting extensions; reporting illnesses; cheating and plagiarism. Include a description of students' responsibilities in the learning. You might also list acceptable and unacceptable classroom behaviour ("Please refrain from eating during class because it is disturbing to me and other students").

    Invite students with special needs to contact you during office hours. Let students know that if they need an accommodation for any type of physical or learning disability, they should set up a time to meet with you to discuss what modifications are necessary.

    Provide a course calendar or schedule. The schedule should include the sequence of course topics, the preparations or readings, and the assignments due. For the readings, give page numbers in addition to chapter numbers--this will help students budget their time. Examination dates should be firmly fixed, while dates for topics and activities may be listed as tentative. Provide an updated calendar as needed.

    Schedule time for fast feedback from your students. Set a time midway through the term when you can solicit from students their reactions to the course so far. See "Fast Feedback" for ways to get feedback from students.

    List important drop dates. Include on the course calendar the last day students can withdraw from the course without penalty.

    Estimate student workload. Give students a sense of how much preparation and work the course will involve. How much time should they anticipate spending on reading assignments, problem sets, lab reports or research?

    Strengths and weaknesses of the prevailing practices of curriculum development in higher education

    Higher education in many African countries was from the onset conceived as something intended for the developed nations of the world. It did not fully address the important needs of the African countries at the time of establishment and so from the beginning it was not keeping pace with the needs of the learners and the society. In the field of Agriculture, for example, crops and animals studied were mostly foreign, even though superior alternatives existed locally. In the field of medicine, practices in traditional medicine were despised. Also, developments in western Europe and the United States of America reached African societies well before higher educational institutions in those societies. The information super-highway (electronic mail, Internet, etc) is already in commerce and the private sector generally while many African institutions of higher education still operate with outmoded technology.

    As a teacher in the higher education how and why would you want to keep the higher education curriculum in pace with the needs of the learners and the society? Your rationale and methods of keeping the higher education curriculum in line with the learners and society could include arguments in the box below:

    Box 3.9. Rationale and methods of keeping pace in higher education

    2. African countries should not be left too far behind in any aspect of development.
    4. Location of the education provided in the African context including recognition of indigenous African processes and products .
    6. Returning African education to basics but keeping pace with recent development.
    2. Development of higher education curricula that keeps abreast with recent advancement in subject areas.
    4. Aspects of African culture and tradition that was ignored by the education process to be included in higher education curriculum
    6. Two- pronged approach to curriculum development and revision in higher education.

    There are several other weaknesses in current practices of curriculum development in higher education. In the first place higher education curriculum has remained largely teacher-centred. The teacher is conceived as a reservoir of knowledge while the students are a repository to receive knowledge from the teacher and return it on demand. It is advisable that the curriculum becomes more learner-centred so that the learner’s initiatives are developed for use in the world of work. The learners would also have the confidence of practising what they have learnt.

    The practice of constructing syllabuses and not undertaking systematic curriculum development appears to have discouraged curriculum reform projects in higher education. Curriculum reform projects are usually innovative in procedure and products and since higher educational institutions have continued to remain largely unchanged in their curricula offerings no reform projects could be undertaken.

    The approach to curriculum development in higher education is largely ad hoc rather than systematic occurring as and when individuals or groups of individuals had been influenced by their own training. Most of the time, changes come through students who have had training in Western Europe or the United States and are recruited in our institutions to teach. Their experiences are brought to bear on the systems they meet and so even though the institutions strive for relevance they cannot because outside influences continue to supersede policy directives. Besides, policy directives on higher education in the area of curriculum are very few.

    Consequently, traditional subjects and practices abound and remain unquestioned. The old school subject of English or French Grammar, Geography, History, Chemistry, Physics, Biology, etc. are common place. It appears the metropolitan institutions of higher education have continued to influence our institutions through these courses. Newer subject areas like remote sensing, aeoronautic engineering, environmental resources management, are still outside the reach of some higher educational institutions in Africa. Even in the institution where some development are taking place in these directions these movements are very slow. The curriculum is kept very narrow and the process of expanding is very slow.



    Florida A. KARANI


    Adherence to the colonial model characterised by detachment and elitism ethos as observed above has been seen to inhibit ability to respond to the needs of African societies to which the institutions belong. The search for relevance has been led by national Governments and the institutions of higher learning themselves while at the same time proposals and formulation of long term policy goals and mission statements has been conducted at high level inter Africa Regional Conferences.

    As early as 1966, Julius Nyerere, first President of the Republic of Tanzania, observed that: "the University in a developing society must put emphasis of its work on subjects of immediate moment to the nation in which it exists and it must be committed to the people of that nation and their humanist goal". On the same issue, Aklilu Habte a former Vice Chancellor of the University of Addis Ababa stated that: "the truly African university must be one that draws its inspiration from its environment, not a transplanted tree, but one growing from a seed that is planted and nurtured in the African soil".

    It is evident that higher education in Africa must do more than just to propagate knowledge for its own sake, it must be instrumental to development – changing the conditions of the common man and woman. Universities can play a developmental role as inventors, experts, promoters, and interpreters of scientific and technology to help create scientific communities.

    Curriculum reforms taking place in various Institutions of Higher learning are in pursuit of this objective. New degree programmes have been developed to replace irrelevant programmes, and there is increasingly more use of locally authored texts, however, it should be noted that not every aspect of the curricula can be Africanized given the universal nature of certain truths in the various disciplines. What is required is a new working definition which translates knowledge into development. Constraints pertaining to inadequate facilities, equipment and lack of instructional material, and crowding which hinder effective implementation of curricula thus affecting quality, need to be addressed.

    Excerpted from:

    Karani, F.A. (1998). Relevance of Higher Education: Policies and Practices. In J. Shabani (Ed.). Higher Education in Africa: Achievements, Challenges and Prospects. Dakar: UNESCO BREDA.


    Higher Education for an Emergent Nigeria

    Pai Obanya


    Radical Curriculum Reforms

    I usually make a distinction between the curriculum as a process and the curriculum as a package. Here, I will stick to the package and it is to be understood that most of the point made so far about a new posture for higher education in an Emergent Nigeria already touch on the process.

    Radical reforms in curriculum will have to question our received ideas on specialists and specialised disciplines, as accepted in higher education institutions, and will require our matching the content of instruction to the demands of society, especially of the productive sectors of an Emergent Nigeria.

    An Emergent Nigeria will require an educated (i.e well-rounded) work force. That work force will require (a) a sound and broad general knowledge, and (b) the learning-to-learn (or adaptability) skills earlier discussed. A sound general education will demand that in the first years of higher education we concentrate more on general education, exposing the student to all areas of knowledge, as in the American liberal arts tradition. It will also require that we do not admit students straight to specialised courses, that we give them time to discover their own interests, and to attain vocational maturity.

    One implication of the "general education approach" is that our current course unit system will give way to the development of self contained modular courses, each with a number of distinct units and each module requiring the participation of a number of lecturers. Team work will then have to become the norm. Teams of lecturers will work together in developing programmes and in teaching and evaluating such programmes.

    The "general education approach" is applicable even to professional and vocational programmes. A 1978 UNESCO report recommended that vocational programmes be based on the 2-tier foundation of (a) a sound general education, (b) a sound basis of general technical education, before initiation to specialised vocational training. This is because the job market place is becoming increasingly unpredictable, as new vocations will always evolve to meet new developments and so vocational skills should be made easily adaptable to changing times.

    Continuing with today’s narrow, specialisation approach means that we will be graduating students who will run the risk of marginalisation in the world of work. Tomorrow’s world will see new developments in many facets of life and these will create new opportunities for jobs and self-employment. Hands-on experiential training will still have a place, but this will be infinitesimal, compared with the type of curriculum which seeks to develop all the faculties of the individual.

    The question will be... "what does one do in a situation in which students have been nade "narrow specialists" right from secondary school? That question is a big challenge to higher education. It means that, in the early years of higher education, teachers should do more of remedial teaching, especially in the tool subjects of language, mathematics, and computer literacy. It also means that higher institutions will have to work harder on foundation courses that broaden the base and deepen the foundation of what students bring as knowledge and skills from secondary schools.

    Excerpted from:

    Obanya, Pai (1998, September). Higher Education for an emergent Nigeria. 50th Anniversary Lecture, Faculty of Education, University of Ibadan, Ibadan, Nigeria


    Curriculum Development in Higher Education

    Extract of Proceedings of UNESCO Regional Workshop on Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, 13-18 September, 1999

    Ms. Irene Broekmann, Education Development Office, Faculty of Education, University of the Witwatersrand, provided a view of the complexity of curriculum development initiatives. She stressed the need to continually redefine the curriculum taking account of local and regional issues. The characteristics of an African institution and the way in which curriculum needs to become responsive to developmental needs are central to curriculum renewal initiatives. Questions regarding who engages in curriculum transformation and for what purpose are necessary for meaningful transformation.

    An excerpt of the story about the sabre tooth tiger was used to introduce workshop participants to the notion of curriculum renewal and the complexity of curriculum transformation. Parts of story is reproduced below:

    The story of The Sabre-tooth Curriculum by Harold Benjamin (1939)

    This is a satire about the introduction of systematic education to meet survival needs in a prehistoric tribe in the Chellean times. A man by the name of New-Fist-Hammer-Maker knew how to do things his community needed to have done, and he had the energy and will to go ahead and do them. By virtue of these characteristics, he was an educated man. New-Fist was also a thinker. Then, as now, there were few lengths to which men would not go to avoid the labour and pain of thought...[New-Fist] got to the point where he became strongly dissatisfied with the accustomed ways of his tribe. He began to catch glimpses of ways in which life might be made better for himself, his family and his group. By virtue of this development, he became a dangerous man..…"

    The story goes on about how New-Fist thought about how he could harness the children’s play to better the life of the community. He considered what adults do for survival and introduced these activities to children in a deliberate and formal way. These included catching-fish-with-bare-hands, clubbing-little-wooly-horses, and chasing-away-sabre-toothed-tigers-with-fire. These then became the curriculum and the community began to prosper - with plenty of food, hides for attire and protection from threat. "It is supposed that all would have gone well forever with this good educational system if conditions of life in that community had remained forever the same". But conditions changed.

    A glacier began to melt and as time went on the community could no longer see the fish to catch with their bare hands, and only the most agile and clever fish remained who hid from the people. The woolly horses were ambitious and decided to leave the region. The tigers got pneumonia and most of them died. The few remaining tigers left the area. In their place, fierce bears arrived who would not be chased by fire. The community was in trouble. Food was scarce, raw materials for clothing were not available and they were threatened by the bears that wandered into the village.

    One day, in desperation, someone made a net from willow twigs and found a new way to catch fish - and the supply was even more plentiful than before. The community also devised a system of traps on the paths to their village to snare the bears. Attempts to change the education system to include these new techniques however encountered "stern opposition".

    These are also activities we need to know. Why can’t the schools teach them?" "But most of the tribe and particularly the wise old men who controlled the school, smiled indulgently at this suggestion. "That wouldn’t be education", they said gently ".... it would be mere training". "We don’t teach fish-grabbing to catch fish; we teach it to develop a generalised agility which can never be duplicated by mere training" ... and so on.

    "If you had any education yourself", they said severely, "you would know that the essence of true education is timelessness. It is something that endures through changing conditions like a solid rock standing squarely and firmly in the middle of a raging torrent. You must know that there are some eternal verities, and the sabre-tooth curriculum is one of them".

    In the excerpt, curriculum is seen as a tradition of organised knowledge, but curriculum can also be modes of thought or experiences. What then is this thing called curriculum? It is often associated with confusion. The term is variously referred to as "amorphous" or "elusive" and it is said that the subject-matter of curriculum varies from text to text. Researchers paint a gloomy picture about theory-building in curriculum and no generalisations seem to emerge. However, there are some widely accepted conceptions of curriculum, such as that of "broad" and "narrow" curricula. The broad conception includes all the experiences of the learners where the narrow refers more to subjects and explicit content. There are conceptions like "planned" or "enacted" curricula, and "explicit" or "implicit/hidden" curricula, the enacted and hidden being far broader conceptualisations.

    The UNESCO ‘Draft Guide’ defines curriculum as the set of activities that are geared towards the achievement of an institution's educational goals. Within this perspective, there seem to be four levels of curriculum development: societal, institutional, instructional and experiential. The first is the broadest, the second pertains broadly to the institution concerned, the third considers what happens in the class or lecture room, and the fourth relates to the learner’s experience.

    Broekmann argues that we need to challenge the "fixed, natural and ready-made" character of structures, subjects and their importance. Times of change give us the perfect opportunity to do this. Listening to and questioning each other can help one see what has become "reified" practice. Maybe we are can not challenge all our assumptions, but each time we say that something "should be", let us also try to say "why". For example, the length of degree programs. Why is a general undergraduate degree three or four years long?

    Curriculum change can be transmissional or transformationist. Transmissional refers to the passing on of new knowledge especially as disciplines develop or change, while a transformationist curriculum aims at changing the consciousness of learners (Walking, 1994). Some change will be on a macro-level (culture, marketplace, and social) and some on a more micro-level (e.g., language, courses). In curriculum development, it is critical to establish what to add, what to keep and what to improve. But what guides these choices? The current `cultural’ call which is presently strong in Africa needs to be critically evaluated. The question of who decides what is a cultural-societal-curriculum-fit and is also important. It is necessary to review curriculum practices in the light of the sabre-tooth-curriculum. This will require challenging things that we have taken for granted or that we see as "natural".

    There are various perceptions of the African University. For example, South Africa President Thabo Mbeki's speech, "I am an African", gives some clues as to how he sees African identity. Appiah in his book "In My Father's House", speaks of the heterogeneous nature of identity and tells of how his father challenged prevailing custom by his request for the type of funeral he wanted

    Broekmann proposed an exercise to participants that was designed to establish some consensus for the group as to what constitutes an African university. A second exercise followed which was intended to give some general indications of how a curriculum in such an institution could look from both broad and narrow conceptual frameworks. Questions included: What should learners ‘experience’ in an African University and what content could be offered, with what methodology? How should knowledge and activities be selected and organised?

    The ‘Draft Guide’ makes the following claims about education:

    Returning African education to basics but keeping pace with recent development."

    But how do we do this? Is the process of education more important than the products? Here should we deal with notions of outcomes in education, so topical in some countries in the region. Or should we consider also the notion of the ‘expressive curriculum’, where the educational encounter is what counts, and outcomes are not pre-specified? And how do we ensure that our methodology is appropriate. If a central purpose of education is the development of democracy, then the procedures have to model democratic practices. There would, for example, have to be an exploration of controversial issues in the curriculum, alternative explanations and so on.

    How do we address the issue of relevance? To whom must the curriculum be relevant? ‘Relevance’ includes a consideration of learner needs and interests as well as their present educational levels and abilities. For the curriculum to be relevant to society, must it centrally address pressing societal needs? What are the expectations of learners, stakeholders such as lecturers, parents of younger students, stakeholders in the workplace and members of the broader community? Are there tensions between these?

    UNESCO puts it thus: "Relevance is considered particularly in terms of the role of higher education. ... It must thus include matters like democratisation of access and broader opportunities of participation in higher education during various stages of life, links to the world of work and the responsibilities of higher education towards the education system as a whole. No less important is participation by the higher education community in the search for solutions to pressing human problems such as population, environment, peace and international understanding, democracy and human rights ...".

    Some areas of study that are deemed central to address in Africa and have emerged in the literature include: entrepreneurship and the creation of own jobs (Palermo Conference), food technology/agriculture, health, peace, language, training, critical learning, environment and sustainable development, technology, team work, internationalisation, science, information communication technologies, insufficiently prepared learners, HIV/AIDS, gender, learner self- management, interdependence and the global village, poverty, violence etc..

    Some see it as more important to become skilled in the ‘ways of knowing’ than to learn about any particular product of investigation. Knowledge of methods of inquiry can make it possible for a person to continue learning and to undertake inquiries of his or her own (Phenix, 1964 ). Some have suggested that a broad general education with an emphasis on ‘learning to learn needs’ to be considered (Obanya, 1998), others such as Paulo Freire consider a problem-solving approach to be the best approach for developing countries.

    Drawing from Covey's (1992) The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, we may have many concerns, but what can we actually influence? What can we do in our own institutions? Which way will curriculum development take place? From changes made by lecturers and tutors or by policy initiatives from the top (Cornbleth refers to contextualised and technocratic curricula respectively), we can certainly take the first steps which include identifying needs, identifying our own roles in our own institutions and identifying who to include in a curriculum reform process. The process is negotiated, but we must keep in mind outside influences that might enable or constrain the process. Finally, we need to consider the role of evaluation in the cycle of reflective curriculum change. Evaluation can be empirical where we judge in as many ways possible whether we have achieved our aims. But it must also be non-empirical where we evaluate the aims themselves. The cycle goes on.










    At the end of this Unit, you will be able to:


    The Needs and Goals of Society as Determinants of Curriculum Development

    The national philosophy of education in a country affects the content and structure of education. This national philosophy is an expression of the needs, goals and aspirations of society in the field of education. The aims and objectives of all activities in the field of education should derive from the needs goals and aspirations of society Curriculum development, which is the planning of these activities, is thus influenced by the needs, goals and aspiration of society.

    The aims of education in many African countries do not always express the needs, goals and aspirations of society. Curriculum development in higher education is therefore faced with the dilemma of planning and developing curriculum based on aims which are not of the society.

    Using the national philosophy of education in your country state the aims of education. Where there is no national philosophy document consult a major policy document on education that carries the national aims of education. Juxtapose the aims of education stated in the policy document against the perceived needs, goals and aspirations of your country. In one page, state some of the differences between the two.

    The economy of many African countries is based on agriculture as food self-sufficiency is a major area of need of the society in these countries. However, the curriculum of higher educational institutions in these countries are not sufficiently reflective of this need. Curriculum development efforts in higher education in these countries should strive to address this need. This is not to suggest that other disciplines must be ignored or that agriculture must be treated at the expense of other essential fields of study like health, education and peace.




    A civil strife has just ended in a country and some of the activities of the perpetrators had a lot in come with your subject area. Suggest practical ways in which your students returning from refugee camps can use the subject you teach to ensure a culture of peace in the country.

    Apart from the needs and goals of society there are other influences on curriculum development in higher education that are largely of the society and the system of education itself. It was emphasised in Unit 2 that curriculum designs provide guidelines for systematic curriculum development. It was also stated that the objectives model is the most popularly used curriculum development design at the school level and that only ad hoc approaches are used in higher education. The objectives model, which is applicable to curriculum development in higher education, recommend the study of the society, the nature of the learners and the subject matter content.

    The study of the society involves identification of the needs and goals of society that can be used as influences on curriculum development in higher education. The need for relevant and functional human resource by society to provide the expertise required depends on the curriculum materials planned and developed. And it is in this sense that curriculum development, especially in higher education, is considered to be very important in the development of education and human resource in any nation.

    Curriculum development for higher education should take place at various levels and must involve a cross section of society especially those from industry and commerce (the private sector) to ensure more relevance. Involvement of national governments is ensured by representation on various committees of senior officers of government. Statutory provisions are made in the composition of committees of higher education, like university senates, boards of governors and councils of polytechnics and colleges of education. The presentations made to these committees by the institutions are usually critiqued by representatives from central government from a funding point of view and not relevance to the society. It is advisable for higher education institutions to obtain comments on their submissions from government offices from the point of view of relevance so that the institution is not blamed for the irrelevance of its curriculum offering. New programmes of study in higher education institutions that are the result of public declarations by government must be developed together with officers of government. The capacity to effectively participate in such activities must always be present within government ministries.


    1. You are appointed dean of your faculty in a field of study that has a strong professional association at the national level. What steps would you take to involve the executive and indeed members of that association in curriculum development efforts in the faculty?

    2. The sectoral ministry that manages the affairs of the industry for which you train students complains that your graduates are not up to the task they are assigned on graduation. Describe the steps you will take to improve the situation.

    Global Consideration: Gender sensitivity and Environmental Awareness

    Gender sensitivity and environmental awareness are two global considerations that must be given in curriculum development efforts for all educational institutions. Curriculum development in higher education should avoid sexist content and language and very serious consideration should be given to environmental conservation.

    The need for increased female enrolment in higher education is desperate in African countries. Every effort is being made to increase the enrolment of females in higher education. The curriculum in higher education must contribute to the phenomenon of gender balance in the institutions and one way is by avoiding sexist biases in the curriculum in these institutions. The content matter of subject areas and learning experiences must not favour any particular sex. In programmes on Home Economics, Food Technology and Teacher Training which have been traditionally offered by women or Agriculture, Engineering and Physics, which have been traditionally offered by men, caution must be exercised in the development of curricula to avoid gender bias.

    In Activity 3.10 you identified certain features of the syllabus you are currently using. Look at these features again and select objectives that:

    2. might cause environmental degradation or conservation
    4. are gender sensitive or not
    6. promote gender balance.

    The objectives you discovered on environmental degradation or conservation and gender sensitivity are most likely to include aspects in Box 3.10.




    Box 3.10

    1. Objectives that degrade or conserve the environment (Depletion of marine resources, destruction of flora and fauna as a result of experimentation. Development of improved varieties of crops and animals)

    2. Objectives that are gender sensitive or not (use of language that precludes a particular sex).



    Psychological Determinants of Curriculum Development in Higher Education

    Planning and development of curriculum for higher education involve the identification and study of the attitudes and values of the target group in that sub-sector of the education system. A study of learner’s needs and interests are also advised to be undertaken including their social and cultural background (patterns of learning, authority and authority figures within the home and family, norms, values and customs). The language of the learners would also be studied, the languages used, spoken and understood and the relationship of the mother tongue to the language of instruction. The cognitive development of the learners should particularly be studied to understand their ability to comprehend idea and processes and the stages in which the learners are in relationship to the current demands of syllabuses. All of these psychological features of the learners are important to the curriculum because they determine the learning experiences to be proposed.


    What alternative learning strategies would you use for a named topic in your subject area of specialisation? Describe these learning strategies.

    2. Imagine a class of 25 students offering a core course that you teach who are unable to cope with the computational skills required. What would you advise the students and organiser of the programme to do to overcome this problem?





    At the end of this unit, you should be able to :

    You have already done a number of exercises and activities on various aspects of curriculum development in higher education. The present unit is to use all the aspects to develop your own teaching activities as it would normally be done in a curriculum development effort by an institution.

    Curriculum development is done through the number of stages defined in the various models present in section 3 of unit 1. In systematic curriculum development each of the stages in the models is dealt with separately.

    The first of the stages dealt with is selection or survey of content matter. The content is sometimes taken from existing documents (e.g. existing syllabuses, college prospectus spelling out the courses in each programme, books and research journal, articles in related subject areas for a new course that is to be originated). The selection of content is in three parts:

    Using the course you are presently teaching arrange the topics to be covered beginning with the simplest content matter to the more complex. Indicate the levels to which each of the topics arranged in 1 above should be taught.

    You can pursue relevance in education in curriculum development by identifying topics that provide the needs of society and the learners. In the process model of curriculum development the content selected should show important procedures, key concepts and criteria inherent in the field of knowledge.


    Outcomes Based Education (OBE) and Curriculum Development In Higher Education

    Outcomes Based Education (OBE) is a direction to which attention is now turning in a number of African countries, notably South Africa. OBE is poised to make an impact on curriculum development in Higher Education in the coming years. As you go through this section, reflect on how OBE is influencing or can influence curriculum development work in your institution.

    Outcomes based education is an approach to education in which clear statements are made about what knowledge, skills and values and attitudes learners should acquire as a result of their learning. These statement are called the outcomes, because they say what the result (or outcome) of learning should be. There are different sorts of outcomes. The broadest outcomes, and those which are considered to be the most important for all learning, are called critical outcomes.

    There are seven critical outcomes. All learning, whether at university, school or in the work place should be organised to help learners achieve these outcomes. The critical outcomes state that learners should be able to:

  • 1. Identify and solve problems and make decisions using critical and creative thinking.

    2. Work effectively with others as members of a team, group, organisation or community.

    3. Organise and manage themselves and their activities responsibly and effectively.

    4. Collect, analyse, organise and critically evaluate information.

    5. Communicate effectively, using visual, mathematical and/or language skills in the modes of oral and/or written presentation.

    6. Use science and technology effectively and critically, showing responsibility towards the environment and health of others.

    7. Demonstrate an understanding of the world as a set of related systems by recognising that problem-solving contexts do not exist in isolation.

  • These outcomes have been adopted by SAQA and agreed by the Departments of Education and Labour after a great deal of debate and consultation with a wide range of stakeholders. They reflect essential qualities that all South Africans will need if we are to build a new democratic society and to create a thriving economy.

    In addition, SAQA requires that learners should learn to:

  • 1. Reflect on and explore a variety of strategies to learn more effectively.

    2. Participate as responsible citizens in the life of local, national and global communities.

    3. Be culturally and aesthetically sensitive across a range of social contexts.

    4. Explore education and career opportunities.

    5. Develop entrepreneurial opportunities.

  • These twelve broad outcomes must guide all work done in schools - in all grades, in all learning areas and even in informal interactions and extra-mural activities. In this sense, they are cross-curricular outcomes. The critical outcomes have a major influence on the kind of learning environmen












































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































    t that learners need, and the kinds of activities that they must engage in if they are to progress toward achieving the outcomes. All the critical outcomes require learners to be actively engaged with their learning, to work both individually and as a member of a team or group, and to interact with learners different from themselves and with real world situations. It is not possible for learners to develop critical problem solving skills, skills of working effectively as a group, of organising and managing themselves, of showing cultural and aesthetic sensitivity if they are passive recipients of abstract theory. They need opportunities to try things out, to test ideas, to reflect on their processes of learning. They need a learning environment in which they are valued, and in which they are required to respect and value others’ points of view, to engage in constructive debate and to develop effective communication skills. And, as far as possible, their learning must link to their world experiences, and help them access those parts of the real world that they have yet to encounter for themselves.






    After working through this unit you will be able to:

    Try to answer the following multiple-choice questions by writing A, B, C, or D in the box of each of the questions, as appropriate. Where no option is correct, write E.

    I EVALUATION really involves

    A. assigning scores to student assignments

    B. seeing how far a programme has been successful

    C. examining the extent to which objectives are being met

    D. looking at a curriculum after it has been implemented.

    ii. The most appropriate phase for the business of evaluation in the process of curriculum development is

    A. at the very end

    B. at all phases

    C. at the very beginning

    D. at the start of a new project.

    iii. Evaluating a curriculum involves paying particular attention to

    A. The learner

    B. The curriculum materials developed

    C. The methods of teaching and learning

    D. Every possible input into the curriculum process.

    iv. Who of the following should NOT be involved in evaluating a curriculum?

    A. The ordinary people

    B. The learners

    C. The teachers

    D. Educational authorities

  • v. Which of the following is NOT an appropriate evaluation question?

    A. To what extent would learners be interested in working with their hands?

    B. To what extent are the available textbooks useful?

    C. What specific activities are carried out by pupils in the mathematics class?

    D. What proportion of the students have come to like technical subjects?

  • Curriculum Evaluation involves (a) asking appropriate questions at all phases of curriculum development (b) deciding on the target group to be addressed by each type of question, (c) selecting the most appropriate strategies/instruments for seeking answers to the questions, and (d) taking appropriate action based on the information collected.



    Using the format below, briefly state (a) the appropriate evaluation questions you will be asking at each stage, (b) your sources of data (or groups from which you can collect data), and (c) the appropriate data collection strategy during each phase.

      Major Evaluation Questions Source(s) of data Appropriate Evaluation Strategies
    I. Conception      
    II. Plan      
    III. Development      
    IV. Try-Out      
    V. Revision      
    VI. Dissemination      
    VII. Monitoring      


    It is often wrongly believed that evaluation should come only at the end of a process of curriculum development. Experience shows however that curriculum work is a continuous, cyclic process; so also is evaluation. Evaluation therefore involves asking such questions as:

    (a) is the new curriculum likely to work?

    (b) to what extent are the various choices (of objectives, content, methods, materials), appropriate?

    (c) to what extent are the intended objectives being achieved?

    (d) to what extent have the various processes worked?

    (e) what lessons can be learnt from all activities already carried out for further curriculum development?

    Seeking appropriate answers to such questions involves (a) identifying sources of data (i.e. Where are we most likely to get the type of information needed? (b) developing a strategy for collecting information in a systematic manner, and (c) summarising the data and using the results to guide further action.