Curriculum and Instruction Education

A Definition of Curriculum from a Traditional Viewpoint

How is curriculum defined from a traditional perspective? Who were the advocates? And how can a school system work with this point of view?

This article provides answers to these questions by expounding on the curriculum concept. Read on to familiarize yourself with this popular, very basic and critical aspect of the educational system.

Traditional Definition of Curriculum

If the word curriculum is defined as a written document or a plan of action to accomplish goals; a body of subjects or a subject matter prepared by teachers in order for the students to learn; a course of study; syllabus, lesson plan, or a field of study – then these definitions come from the traditional point of view (Bilbao et al., 2008).

The Advocates of Curriculum

The following theorists are the advocates of the curriculum concept. Their perspectives helped shape current understanding of how curriculum is used in meeting educational goals.

Robert M. Hutchins

Hutchins believes that college education must be grounded on liberal education while basic education should emphasize the rules of grammar, reading, rhetoric, logic and mathematics. For him, curriculum is viewed as permanent studies which explain why some subjects are repeated from elementary to college, such as grammar, reading, and mathematics.

Arthur Bestor

Bestor is an essentialist who believes that the mission of the school is to train the intellectual capacity of learners. Hence, subjects to be offered are grammar, literature, writing, mathematics, science, history and foreign language.

Joseph Schwab

Schwab views that discipline is the sole source of curriculum, and so, the curriculum is divided into chunks of knowledge which are called subject areas like English, mathematics, social studies, science, humanities, languages, and others. As a leading curriculum theorist, Schwab used the term discipline as the ruling doctrine for curriculum development. Therefore, curriculum is viewed as a field of study and it should only consist of knowledge that comes from the disciplines; for example, linguistics, economics, chemistry, among others.

How the School System Works Using Curriculum as a Basis

In a traditional point of view, teachers are required to write lesson plans and syllabi. The subjects offered in basic education are grammar, literature, writing, mathematics, science, history and foreign language which help develop the intellectual capacities of learners. However, curriculum is viewed as a field of study in higher education. So, curriculum refers to the degree programs such as Bachelor of Secondary Education, major in English, BS in Accountancy, BS in Civil Engineering, MA in Environmental Science, Ph.D. in Education, major in Curriculum Development, and others.

As a field of study, curriculum consists of domains of knowledge as well as their research theories and principles, and the foundations (philosophical, historical, psychological, and social) which are broad in nature. Thus, curriculum is taken as scholarly and theoretical.

Would you dare take a Ph.D. in Education, major in Curriculum Development? What I have discussed is only one of the many aspects of the curriculum. I will be writing more about this subject. So, stay tuned for more.


Bilbao, P. P., Lucido, P. I., Iringan, T. C., and R. B. Javier (2008). Curriculum development. Philippines: Lorimar Publishing, Inc.

© 2014 December 2 M. G. Alvior

By Alvior, Mary G.

Dr. Mary Gillesania Alvior has PhD. in Curriculum Development from West Visayas State University. She earned her Master of Arts in Teaching English Language at De La Salle University, Manila as CHED scholar. She worked at the Royal Commission for Jubail and Yanbu in Saudi Arabia as an English instructor and curriculum developer. Her committee was responsible for the development of an english curriculum based on the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) and used the English Language Proficiency Exams as assessment tools. In 2016, she moved to Thailand and taught at the St. Theresa International College. She was able to teach English and Education courses to college and MA students. In the Diploma in Teaching course, she was able to observe different classes in Thailand. From pre-school to high school classes, from private to government schools, from small private schools to the most elite schools, and from local schools to international schools. Her students came from 14 countries and some of them are retired from famous organizations and graduates of Oxford University, McGill University, National University of Singapore, MIT, British Columbia, among others. Her experiences in a multi-cultural environment made her exposed to different curricula and programs abroad. Curricular programs that are industry-related, innovative, and follow global standards. The kind of programs that are much needed by developing countries.

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