What does curriculum mean to most of us? Is it a guiding book OR a path that is to be followed? If it’s seen as a guiding book, then it’s expected to give an overview of the ideals to be practiced and realised. If it’s seen as a path, then it’s expected to provide clear and specific details about what must be done at every stage of teaching and learning, along with the details about how things should be done.
With the changing times, the nature and scope of curriculum have only been constantly evolving and expanding.
We now find a curriculum to be much more comprehensive and progressive in nature, which makes it a guiding document as well as a path. Hence, a comprehensive curriculum considers the guiding principles and allows for the steps to be taken to turn them into realities. A progressive curriculum is always open for redesign, review, and renewal.
While designing a curriculum for the 21st century schools and learners, we must acknowledge the values and practices that have passed through the tests of times and ages, and still continue to survive in today’s rapidly-changing world. This survival is possible only when a curriculum considers the need to do a bit of repackaging (if necessary) of the foundational values and practices to meet the needs of today’s learners and also of the larger society.
In our context, the foundational values comprise the ancient Indian educational practices like Sravana, Samwad, Manana, Swadhyay, Nidhi Dhyasana, Drishya Shikshan, etc. In these ancient practices, one can find the traces of independent learning, mindful learning, visual learning, auditory learning, and so on. So while designing a curriculum, we also must look deep into the roots and origin of these practices. This exercise will also help us understand the whole evolutionary change they have gone through for arriving at their current form. This exercise will also help us in finalising the essential goals and components of a curriculum.
Let us discuss a very specific example here. Activity-based learning theory has nowadays taken many other forms like project-based learning, experiential learning, expeditionary learning, etc. The very origin of these types of learning can be traced back to the traditional questioning method, dialectical method, learning by doing method, etc. Another example is the theory of holistic development which in today’s time is often seen as the whole-child approach.
Is a curriculum able to incorporate these age-old, core and yet relevant educational values and practices with a fresh approach? Is a curriculum capable of making a school the final destination for those who are seeking progressive knowledge? Is a curriculum capable of providing knowledge based on the requirements of the ongoing industrial age? These are a few questions, answers to which every education professional connected with curriculum designing must seek.
To design a befitting curriculum for the 21st century, we must understand what all makes 21st century learning. In literal sense, it would mean the teaching-learning processes and practices prevalent in the current 21st century. However, when we go deeper, we realise that the teaching-learning practices should help us facilitate the goals today’s individuals and societies are trying to achieve.
Let us understand how the aspirations of the human race and societies have changed and evolved over the years.
The definition of human development and societal development continued and continues to change. Therefore, mankind never stopped with the inventions around machines and electrification. We as a collective force, then invented computer and technology-based systems. We still felt that maybe something was missing – something that mere human intelligence was not capable of doing and so, we created artificial intelligence. Amidst all this, we have now started realizing that certain core human and ethical values are getting lost in the process, and humans are getting too much dependent on the things that they only have created.
Can a creation ever rule over the creator? Should education be used for personal development or for the development of the larger society?
We often find ourselves surrounded by these kinds of questions which compel us to think critically. And every time we do this, we find new answers, new solutions, and new perspectives. Since thinking leads to great and pathbreaking realisations and innovations, won’t it be appropriate to make it an integral part of a curriculum – a curriculum that promotes critical thinking.
Let us now think of a few buzzwords making the rounds in the 21st century to understand the dynamics of this century. The things we are trying to achieve mostly in the 21st century.
I prefer to mention here three buzzwords starting with an “I” – Identity, Information, and Innovation.
Identity – We are constantly trying to become more conscious and aware of “Who we are” and “What makes each one of us unique”.
Information – We have unlimited access to information, existing in and coming from different parts of the world.
Innovation – This is the time for newer ideas and solutions, developed through technological and non-technological means.
The 21st century curriculum has to empower the learners to form their unique identity, learn to use and share information intelligently and responsibly, and find solutions to today’s pressing issues through innovative ideas, prototypes, designs, etc.
There’s an order in this whole explanation and realisation process. It begins with the formation of self-concept, which keeps on expanding with access to various kinds of information through technology, and many of us find greater purpose in life when we start thinking of solutions for the betterment of the larger society. Here, we also would like to highlight that “Information” (being in the middle) provides support to both the other “I” words i.e., identify formation and innovative practices.
If these are the goals we are trying to achieve as a human race… If these are the expectations, we have from a 21st century curriculum… The following components must be mindfully incorporated in a curriculum.
- Interdisciplinary teaching and learning
- 21st century values, beliefs, and skills
- Growth and benefit mindset
- Adaptive, humanised and personalised learning experiences
- Competency-based, experiential, and active learning
- Authentic assessments that encourage learners to find solutions to real life problems.
- National and global concerns
As a supporter of ‘progressive education’, we believe that post the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 is implemented, a lot of schools will have to bring in a radical change in the way they facilitate knowledge creation, knowledge acquisition, and knowledge sharing. ‘What they teach’ will change and there will be a sea change in ‘how they teach’ i.e., casual teaching will get replaced with planned and informed teaching. Schools will have to mindfully use diverse pedagogical approaches to meet the needs and interests of diverse learners.
We must acknowledge the fact that the success of a curriculum depends greatly on its effective implementation, or else, it will remain a mere road map. So, choose the implementation strategy or the road carefully because “the road we take makes all the difference”.
P.S. We are a team of progressive education professionals and on a journey to discover, share, and co-construct knowledge. Please feel free to share your feedback and thoughts on the topic.
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