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


  1. ASARE BISMARK January 31, 2021
  2. Anna Al-Bright Mensah September 27, 2018
  3. Ammayini P Kachallah May 4, 2017