What Is Curriculum? Definition and Importance of Curriculum

It is said that education is the backbone of the nation and this education is the key to the development of a country and nation. There is no substitute for education for better living and progress of society. Curriculum is needed to shape education properly. What is this curriculum? Here the definition and concept of curriculum is discussed.

Etymology (Origin of the Term 'curriculum')

The word curriculum is derived from the Latin word 'currere'. The Latin word 'currere' means 'curriculum' or 'course of study'. Some of the researchers think it comes from the Latin word 'currer', which means 'horse racing arena'.

What Is Curriculum? (Definition of Curriculum)

The term curriculum refers to the academic content and lessons taught in a school or educational institution or in a specific course or program. A well-organized plan for conducting educational activities is called curriculum. Curriculum is a set of standards-based experiences in which students practice and master information and skills.

John Dewey defines curriculum as a continuous reconstruction, moving from the learner's present experience out into that represented by the organized bodies of truth that we call studies… the various studies… are themselves experience—they are that of the race.

Curriculum serves as a primary guide for all educators in terms of what is required for effective teaching and learning, ensuring that every student has access to challenging academic experiences. A curriculum's structure, organization, and concerns are designed to help students learn more effectively and efficiently. To effectively support instruction and learning, curriculum must include the required goals, techniques, materials, and assessments.

Definitions of Curriculum by Different Authors and Scholars

The following Curriculum definitions collection mentioned below is collected from the notes by Dr. Robert Sweetland's Ali Abidi. Thanks to them.

  1. According to A. Bestor (1956),  the curriculum must consist essentially of disciplined study in five great areas: 1) command of mother tongue and the systematic study of grammar, literature, and writing.  2) mathematics, 3) sciences, 4) history, 5) foreign language.

  2. Albert Oliver (1977) says, "Curriculum is the educational program of the school” and divided into four basic elements: 1) program of studies, 2) program of experiences, 3) program of service, 4) hidden curriculum."

  3. B. Othanel Smith (1957)  defines, "A sequence of potential experiences is set up in the school for the purpose of disciplining children and youth in group ways of thinking and acting.  This set of experiences is referred to as the curriculum."

  4. Bobbit (1918) says, "Curriculum is that series of things which children and youth must do and experience by way of developing abilities to do the things well that make up the affairs of adult life; and to be in all respects what adults should be".

  5. Caswell and Campbell (1935) define, "Curriculum is composed of all of the experiences children have under the guidance of the teacher."

  6. Daniel Tanner and Laurel N. Tanner (1988) "that reconstruction of knowledge and experience systematically developed under the auspices of the school (or university), to enable the learner to increase his or her control of knowledge and experience."

  7. According to David G. Armstrong (1989):  "Curriculum is a master plan for selecting content and organizing learning experiences for the purpose of changing and developing learners' behaviors and insights."

  8. Duncan and Frymier (1967) says that curriculum is a set of events, either proposed, occurring, or having occurred, which has the potential for reconstructing human experience.

  9. Goodman (1963) defines, "Curriculum is a set of abstractions from actual industries, arts, professions, and civic activities, and these abstractions are brought into the school-box and taught."

  10. Harnack (1968) describes, "athe curriculum embodies all the teaching-learning experiences guided and directed by the school."

  11. Definition of curriculum by Hilda Taba (1962) is "All curricula, no matter what their particular design, are composed of certain elements.  A curriculum usually contains a statement of aims and of specific objectives; it indicates some selection and organization of content; it either implies or manifests certain patterns of learning and teaching, whether because the objectives demand them or because the content organization requires them.  Finally, it includes a program of evaluation of the outcomes."

  12. Johnson (1967) defines, "Curriculum is a structural series of intended learning outcomes.  Curriculum prescribes (or at least anticipates) the results of instruction.  It does not prescribe the means...  To be used in achieving the results."

  13. Krug (1957) definesdefines, "Curriculum consists of all the means of instruction used by the school to provide opportunities for student learning experiences leading to desired learning outcomes."

  14. Ralph Tyler (1957) defines curriculum as— "the curriculum is all of the learning of students which is planned by and directed by the school to attain its educational goals."

  15. Robert Hutchins (1936):  The curriculum should consist of permanent studies-rules of grammar, reading, rhetoric and logic, and mathematics (for the elementary and secondary school), and the greatest books of the western world (beginning at the secondary level of schooling).

  16. Ronald C. Doll (1988):  "the formal and informal content and process by which learners gain knowledge and understanding, develop skills, and alter attitudes, appreciations, and values under the auspices of that school."

  17. Ronald Doll (1970) defines "The curriculum is now generally considered to be all of the experiences that learners have under the auspices of the school."

  18. Tanner (1980) defined curriculum as “the planned and guided learning experiences and intended outcomes, formulated through the systematic reconstruction of knowledge and experiences under the auspices of the school, for the learners’ continuous and wilful growth in personal social competence”.

  19. Schubert (1987) defines curriculum as the contents of a subject, concepts and tasks to be acquired, planned activities, the desired learning outcomes and experiences, product of culture and an agenda to reform society.

  20. Pratt (1980) defines curriculum as a written document that systematically describes goals planned, objectives, content, learning activities, evaluation procedures and so forth.

  21. Goodlad and Su (1992) define curriculum as a plan that consists of learning opportunities for a specific time frame and place, a tool that aims to bring about behaviour changes in students as a result of planned activities and includes all learning experiences received by students with the guidance of the school.

  22. Cronbleth (1992) defines curriculum as answering three questions: what knowledge, skills and values are most worthwhile? Why are they most worthwhile? How should the young acquire them?

  23. Hass (1987) provides a broader definition, stating that a curriculum includes “all of the experiences that individual learners have in a program of education whose purpose is to achieve broad goals and related specific objectives, which is planned in terms of a framework of theory and research or past and present professional practice”.

Some of the Definition of Curriculum from University of Delaware

  1. A course of study that will enable the learner to acquire specific knowledge and skills.

  2. A curriculum consists of the "roadmap" or "guideline" of any given discipline. Both the philosophy of teaching of the instructors as well as of the educational institution serve as two of the principles upon which a curriculum is based.

  3. A curriculum is the combination of instructional practices, learning experiences, and students' performance assessment that are designed to bring out and evaluate the target learning outcomes of a particular course.

  4. A detailed plan for instruction set by policy-makers.

  5. A selection of information, segregated into disciplines and courses, typically designed to achieve a specific educational objective.

  6. As applied to education, curriculum is the series of things that students must do and experience by way of developing abilities to do the things well that adults do in life; and to be in all ways the people that they should be as adults.

  7. Curriculum is a framework that sets expectations for student learning. It serves as a guide for teachers, a roadmap if you will, that establishes standards for student performance and teacher accountability.

  8. Curriculum is a group of courses offered in a particular field of study.

  9. Curriculum is a set of courses (offered by an educational institution) that are required to complete an area of specialization.

  10. Curriculum is all of the courses of study offered (science, math, reading, etc.) and those guidelines for teaching and learning set forth for a particular educational institution.

  11. Curriculum is specifically what you teach within each discipline and at each level.

  12. Curriculum is the "floor plan" or blueprint for what is going to be taught/learned/experienced ... in the academic classroom over a period of time.

  13. Curriculum is the delivery component of an institutions' educational mission, values, and theory of learning. It should follow in-depth discussions regarding "what a student should learn" and "how a student can best learn."

  14. Curriculum is the expectations for what will be taught and what students will do in a program of study. It includes teacher-made materials, textbooks, and national and state standards.

  15. Curriculum is the gathered information that has been considered relevant to a specific topic. It can always be changed or added to in order to become relevant to the times.

  16. Curriculum is the guidelines by which different content matters are taught and assessed.

  17. Curriculum is the outline of concepts to be taught to students to help them meet the content standards.

  18. Curriculum is what is taught in a given course or subject.

  19. Curriculum refers to an interactive system of instruction and learning with specific goals, contents, strategies, measurement, and resources. The desired outcome of the curriculum is successful transfer and/or development of knowledge, skills, and attitudes.

  20. Guidelines for course instruction with attention to content, teaching style and academic standards.

The concept of curriculum

Curriculum was used in a narrow sense at the beginning of the concept of curriculum. Over time it has gained an overall plan for conducting education and teaching activities. Curriculum research has not stopped or stuck within certain boundaries. As a result of new research on curriculum, more and more new ideas are being created in this regard. Individuals involved in the implementation of education must have knowledge of the concept of curriculum.

Ancient concept of curriculum

The term curriculum has been used in different senses at different times and the concept of curriculum is constantly evolving in the course of change of era. Therefore, no universally accepted single and definite definition or concept of curriculum has emerged.

In ancient times the subject of education was the acquisition of human survival skills. As a result, this aspect has gained importance in the non-formal education of that time. Later, as a result of people's thinking about continuous education, the concept of formal curriculum began to take shape.

Curriculum is the sum of a number of textbooks that are included in a class or level or course in the ancient concept of curriculum.

Extensive use of curriculum in America dates back to 1820. Curriculum in the United States at that time meant the subject matter of a course, which was followed by teaching in the teacher's class.

The main goal of the American curriculum at that time was to develop the child's mental and intellectual development. Therefore, emphasis was laid on acquiring hereditary coherent knowledge and mental discipline in the curriculum. Conservative educators were of the opinion that in order to develop a child's mental state, a number of essentials should be included in the school curriculum. These are mother tongue, mathematics, science, history, philosophy and western ideology. As a result, these subjects were included in the curriculum at that time.

Modern Concept of Curriculum Curriculum

Roughly, the old and narrow concept of curriculum has changed since the 1930's. Most educators think that the concept of curriculum spread widely after 1930. At that time curriculum meant the sum of all the learning experiences conducted by the school.

In 1935, Casswell and Campbell abolished the old notion of curriculum and proposed a new definition; according to them, curriculum is all the experience gained by the student in the management of the teacher.

The curriculum began to be used in a broader sense beyond its narrow conceptual boundaries, and the curriculum came to be regarded as the sum of all the school-controlled learning experiences, rather than just the subject matter. But curriculum experts continue to search for more clear and acceptable concepts of curriculum.

In 1949, curriculum expert Ruff Tyler came up with an idea to solve the problem of curriculum. Ruff Tyler was the first to say that curriculum is all the learning experience that is designed and conducted by the school to achieve the goal of education and the student has acquired it.

Ruff Tyler's definition shows that he emphasizes the curriculum to rely on purposeful and planned learning experiences in all school-run activities.

The influence of the school was evident in the student life in the mid-1950's. At that time, a number of educational projects were undertaken in the United States to refine and change the concept of curriculum. The educators who worked on the American educational project defined the curriculum as an instructional plan.

In the late sixties and early seventies, many compared school work to industrial production. Just as raw materials are processed in industrial factories to produce a variety of products, the school's job is to develop illiterate and inexperienced students into skilled, experienced and literate people. As a result, the question of student's competence and achievement in curriculum formulation and the question of school accountability are gaining importance. In order to make the content selection and evaluation system of the curriculum scientific, great importance was laid on writing behavioral objectives in the curriculum at this time. From this time onwards, this changed and specific form of curriculum became important in the concept of curriculum given by various scholars. Thus, over time, new dimensions are added to the concept of curriculum and old concepts change.

Importance of Curriculum

An effective curriculum provides a measurable strategy and structure for delivering a quality education to teachers, students, administrators, and community stakeholders. Students must demonstrate learning outcomes, criteria, and core competencies before progressing to the next level, according to the curriculum. Teachers are crucial in the development, implementation, assessment, and modification of the curriculum. A research-based curriculum serves as a roadmap for teachers and students on their way to academic success.

The school system is based on a curriculum, and it can never function without recognizing the value of curriculum. A school cannot function properly without a well-designed curriculum. Because there would be no clear understanding of what students studying at the school would be taught. Whatever the purpose of teaching a topic is, the administration must have a clear vision of what they want the pupils to be capable of by the time they graduate from that institution.

On the other hand, if the curriculum is too tough for the majority of students. The administration must then rewrite the syllabus to make it less tough. We may advance towards a more effective academic environment with skilled and hardworking students by carefully managing the curriculum.


Curriculum is a set of standards-based experiences in which students practice and master information and skills. Curriculum serves as a primary guide for all educators in terms of what is required for effective teaching and learning, ensuring that every student has access to challenging academic experiences.


University of Delaware

Dr. Robert Sweetland's notes. 

TESOL with Ali Abidi



Previous Post Next Post