Posted in ECS 210

Curriculum Policy and Politics

How do I imagine curricula are developed?

When I think of how curricula are developed my mind instantly jumps to those that will be using it to teach, teachers! I can imagine a bunch of seasoned teachers brought together by the government to discuss their collective area of interest and expertise in order to define what they believe students should be learning. In my imagination, this process of collective curriculum development goes through some sort of check by someone within the federal government who is “in charge” of education in their respective province or territory. Of course, after that thought comes to mind, my cynical thoughts take over. Are teachers the ones who actually design curriculum? Is this how I think curriculum should even be designed? What kinds of third-party interests are being represented and how? The questions are endless.

How are curricula actually designed?

In reality, curricula are actually designed in a slightly different way and fully understanding the process of curricula development requires a knowledge of the role that politics plays in the development of public policy. It is stated in the reading by Ben Levin, Curriculum policy and the politics of what should be learned in schools, that many educators are unaware of the political process that influence policy decision which in turn then affect “what schooling is provided, how, to whom, in what form, by whom, [and] with what resources” (p. 8). Thus, in order to truly understand how policies regarding education are formed, we must understand how politics make these influences, or, how government works.

Levin points out six different aspects of the inner workings of government in order to provide some insight into how this affects education policy. These six aspects are as follows:

Voter Interest Drive Everything 

One of the main driving factors of what happens in government and politics in elections. Each party wants to secure their position as the next elected and thus have to try to cater to voter interests. Within this aspect, it is up to the governments to attempt to change voter perceptions of what they are doing or going to do, and up to voters to pick the issues that they care about, no matter how little they may actually know about the topic.

Governments have Limited Control over the Policy Agenda

Because parties are in office for a limited amount of time, and they are constantly being dragged in every which direction at once, it makes it difficult to set a course and stay on it.

There is Never Enough Time 

There are a vast array of matters that a government has to attend to, many of which we don’t even see, and all must be attended to in order for everything to run smoothly. Unfortunately, this means that the way time and energy are divided amongst these topics can never be truly enough in everyone’s eyes. Nor is it factually enough time to fully investigate the matter and any issues surrounding it.

People and Systems Both Matter

The individual people that work within a government system and the structures within the system itself are equally important and are both determining factors in the types of public policies that are created, gain traction, and implemented, when the policies are put into place, and who the policies value or don’t value.

A Full-Time Opposition Changes Everything

This seems very self-explanatory. It is understandably difficult to get anything done or get anyone on the same page when there is a group of individuals who oppose absolutely everything you say or do.

Beliefs are More Important than Facts 

In some cases, it is hard for people to look beyond what they believe or want. This is especially true concerning public policies. As Ben Levin states in his article, even if there were impeccable research findings to back up a policy, as long as it is disfavoured by the public and their beliefs, it won’t be supported.

Who is involved in curriculum making?

I was happy to see that schools, teachers, and “subject matter experts” were among the groups of people that were involved in curriculum development. I was less happy to see, however, that there were other stakeholders who were able to use their power to influence curriculum development. Businesses, who want to promote the acquisition of skills that will benefit them in the future, promote different curricular goals and objectives. While I am sure there are those who would try to find the positive side to this aspect of stakeholder influences, it seems to me that this would provide a biased product.

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Author:

Studying to gain a Bachelor of Education at the University of Regina

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