Four Major Foundations of Curriculum and their Importance in Education

This article explains the four major foundations of curriculum and their importance in education. Examples are provided to stress the importance of curriculum in the academe.

Read on and reflect on some experiences you have had in school. Match it with how philosophy, history, psychology, and sociology influence those experiences of yours.

The Influence of Philosophy to Curriculum

Educators, curriculum makers, and teachers must have espoused a philosophy or philosophies deemed necessary for planning, implementing, and evaluating a school curriculum. The philosophy they have embraced will help them achieve the following:

  1. define the school’s purpose,
  2. identify the essential subjects to be taught,
  3. design the learning students must have,
  4. develop approaches or methodologies on how students can gain the knowledge, skills, and attitude,
  5. produce the instructional materials,
  6. identify the methods and strategies to be used, and
  7. determine how teachers will evaluate students.

Likewise, philosophy offers solutions to problems by helping the administrators, curriculum planners, and teachers make sound decisions. A person’s philosophy reflects his/her life experiences, social and economic background, shared beliefs, and education.

When John Dewey proposed that “education is a way of life,” his philosophy is realized when put into practice. Now, particularly in the Philippines, Dewey’s philosophy served as an anchor for the country’s educational system.

History and Its Influence to Curriculum

The history of one’s country can affect its educational system and the curriculum. If we trace the curriculum’s formal beginning, we get back in time to Franklin Bobbit’s book entitled “The Curriculum,” published in 1918.

From Bobbit’s time to Tyler, many developments in the purposes, principles, and contents of the curriculum took place. Please read the Six Famous Curriculum Theorists and their Contributions to Education for more information.

The Influence of Psychology to Curriculum: Four Major Foundations

The curriculum is influenced by psychology. Psychology provides information about the teaching and learning process. It also seeks answers how a curriculum will be organized to achieve students’ learning at the optimum level and what amount of information they can absorb in learning the various contents of the curriculum.

The following are some psychological theories in learning that served as major foundations of curriculum development:

1. Behaviorism

Education in the 20th century was dominated by behaviorism. The mastery of the subject is given more emphasis. So, learning is organized in a step-by-step process. Using drills and repetition are common.

For this reason, many educational psychologists viewed it as mechanical and routine. Though many are skeptical about this theory, we can’t deny the influences it had on our educational system.

2. Cognitivism

Cognitive theorists focus on how individuals process information, monitor and manage their thinking. The basic questions cognitive psychologists zero in on are:

  • How do learners process and store information?
  • How do they retrieve data and generate conclusions?
  • How much information can they absorb?

With their beliefs, they promote the development of problem-solving and thinking skills and popularize reflective thinking, creative thinking, intuitive thinking, discovery learning, and others.

3. Humanism

Humanism is taken from Gestalt’s theory, Abraham Maslow’s theory, and Carl Rogers’ theory. This group of psychologists is concerned with the development of human potential.

In this theory, the curriculum is after the process, not the product; focuses on personal needs, not on the subject; and clarifying psychological meanings and environmental situations. In short, curriculum views founded on humanism posit that learners are human beings who are affected by their biology, culture, and environment. They are neither machines nor animals.

foundations of curriculum
Humanism focuses on personal needs and human potential.

Along this line, curriculum developers must craft a more advanced, more comprehensive curriculum that promotes human potential. Teachers educate not only the minds, but the hearts as well.

4. Sociology and Curriculum

Among the major foundations of curriculum development, the sociological theory emphasizes the influence of society on education. It is founded on the belief that there is a mutual and encompassing relationship between society and curriculum because it exists within the societal context. Though schools are formal institutions that educate the people, other units of society educate or influence the way people think, such as families and friends, and communities.

Since society is dynamic, many developments are difficult to cope with and adjust to. But the schools are made to address and understand the changes not only in one’s country but in the world as well.

Therefore, schools must be relevant by making their curriculum more innovative and interdisciplinary. A curriculum that can address global learners’ diversities, the explosion of knowledge through the internet, and the educational reforms and policies recommended or mandated by the United Nations.

However, it is also imperative that a country must have maintained a curriculum that reflects and preserves its culture and aspirations for national identity. No matter how far people go, it is the country’s responsibility to ensure that the school serves its purpose of educating the citizenry.

Now, it is your time to reflect. Can you think of your experiences in which the major foundation of the curriculum can explain it?

Try to ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Why should I take history, philosophy, psychology or even PE subjects in college?
  2. Why is it that the Department of Education is implementing K to 12 and the mother tongue-based curriculum?
  3. Why is there institutional amalgamation?
  4. Why is there “One UP” (One University of the Philippines) now in the Philippines?
  5. Why is there a need for a globalized higher education?

These questions imply that change will take place soon. So, brace yourself for the many changes that will take place in education!


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

© 2015 January 9 M. G. Alvior | Updated: 6 December 2020


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