Sounds nice doesn’t it. Now what is it and what can we do with it?
Look for a definition and you get something like this “1. All the courses of study offered by an educational institution.” No wonder people are miffed on what it means and what we can do with it.
In South Korea, a curriculum often means a book (or a collection of books) to teach a certain subject. In practice, a curriculum means a standardized selection of materials students need to study. I especially would like to point out the word standardized. This week this video did the tour, and I must say that this video puts it very nicely indeed, it’s so simple, it is hard for me to improve on what has been said, except of course when it comes to Korea.
This is often what frustrates me in South Korea, and it is mostly because I am unable to change my point of view on the matter, not only because of my POV but also because Koreans themselves want to change but feel unable to do so. Please, also read Groove Korea‘s article on the matter.
Going back to the word curriculum, the reason why the private education industry exists is because most parents believe the public education is insufficient to deal with the competitive, cut-throat nature of the whole testing system that we have in Korea today. I can run my school, because of this reason. So that doesn’t bother me too much. What bothers me is that for some strange reasons, people want fixed curriculum’s to exist in private education too. But Why? I can understand that in public school, where there are 40 or more students in the class, that individual attention is impossible, and therefore a strict adherence to the curriculum is required to give everybody the MINIMUM education required to survive in society. We all understand that. But PRIVATE education, with classrooms of under 15 students, or hagwon/homeroom types of education with classes of around 4 students, why would they need fixed curricula? It is so easy for a teacher to make a “personal” assessment of the child’s needs, to get close to what the children need to progress, not only mental or academical but also emotional, that this strange demand of curricula based on faulty textbooks construed just to drain parents of their money is beyond me.
I don’t use textbooks. I asses my students. I look at them; at how they study; how they solve problems; where they struggle. I develop programs to suit the individual needs of the students. No homogeneous sausage for my students. I understand that you need some framework (we could call it a curriculum), some guiding principles to chisel out a pathway, but if you are an educated person, you already have that inside of you. You can already form predictions based on interactions with children on their needs and future aspirations, what knowledge they will require to increase the probability of “success”.
Every time a mother asks me about my “curriculum!” and I SHOW them what I do, they keep asking, “and what book do you use?”. Please, your child might not fit within the lines the textbooks provide. They might not play the right string to get your child to sing, it takes an experienced, emphatic teacher to do that. It is only when you lose faith in teachers, that you focus on the curriculum.
I also fundamentally believe that curricula are designed for the overworked, over-stressed under-motivated, under-qualified teacher. It gives them something to hold onto, rather than deal with the source of the problem, being either themselves or their surroundings.
Curricula are the excess of the Teaching Industry, just like red lights are the excess of the Transport Industry. For most a necessary requirement, but when you are driving on your bike in the forest, or flying with a jet in the air, absolutely ridiculous.