What is Curriculum?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Curriculum has numerous definitions, which can be slightly confusing. In its broadest sense, the word is used to refer to all courses offered at a school. This is particularly true of schools at the university level, where the diversity of classes might be an attractive point to a potential student.

Many schools have a set curriculum that's focused on several core subjects.
Many schools have a set curriculum that's focused on several core subjects.

A curriculum may also refer to a defined and prescribed course of studies, which students must fulfill in order to pass a certain level of education. For example, an elementary school might discuss how its curriculum, or its entire sum of lessons and teachings, is designed to improve national testing scores or help students learn the basics. An individual teacher might also refer to his or her individual course of classes, referring to all the subjects that will be taught during a school year.

Curriculum is a defined path of coursework for education in schools.
Curriculum is a defined path of coursework for education in schools.

On the other hand, a high school might refer to a curriculum as the courses required in order to receive one’s diploma. They might also refer to it in exactly the same way as the elementary school, and use the word to mean both individual courses needed to pass, and the overall offering of courses, which help prepare a student for life after high school.

A curriculum is often designed around the knowledge a child will need to pass placement tests or to advance to the next grade level.
A curriculum is often designed around the knowledge a child will need to pass placement tests or to advance to the next grade level.

Usually, students in high school and colleges have some degree of choice in pursuing their education. They often have an individual curriculum that helps them attain a degree or to specialize in a certain field. Even at the high school level, the course of study may be separated into courses that make a student eligible to attend certain colleges, and courses that will merely earn him or her a diploma.

An elementary school might discuss how its curricululm can help students learn basics or improve test scores.
An elementary school might discuss how its curricululm can help students learn basics or improve test scores.

Some high schools have curriculum specially designed for students who plan to work in a trade after finishing high school. In those cases, a high school may offer certification in secretarial or construction skills when a student follows a specific course of study.

In colleges, specific courses make up the individual’s curriculum, allowing a student to obtain a degree or certification in a certain field. Usually an individual will have to complete a certain amount of general education courses, and then specialized courses within a chosen field. In this way, the plan is individualized to the person’s desire for a certain type of expertise. Not following the prescribed course of study may mean not obtaining a degree.

Most states require high schools to include some computer skills in their curriculum.
Most states require high schools to include some computer skills in their curriculum.
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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Discussion Comments


What are the three interconnected parts of curriculum?


Curriculum starts with the belief of what students will or should do in the education and is an tool for teachers to implement the syllabus. It is a set of guidelines of what should be do in education.


Curriculum is like the recipe for a cake. It can be traditional or new, modified or enhanced. The main idea is that, if approached with skill, it can be used to create something that will impart contentedness on those who encounter it.


Can a curriculum help to solve African society's problems?


Can a school exist without a curriculum?


I think it would be fun to come up with a kindergarten curriculum. There would be a lot of painting and crafts involved, as well as easy alphabet games. It would be much more enjoyable than planning a curriculum for a grade in high school.


In college, the curriculum for each field of study was outlined in one guidebook. So, I knew before I started planning my classes for the first semester what all I would have to take in order to graduate.

It was nice to have all this information right in front of me. I could cross off courses after I finished them, and I could clearly see what I needed to take for the following semesters.

I started off small, with just four classes. After that, I began taking five classes per semester, and I wound up taking six one semester plus a few summer courses so that I could graduate in four years.

I'm glad I took it easy at first. My cousin advised me that I needed to get a feel for the responsibility and amount of work involved before I took on more courses at a time, and she was right.


Sometimes the curriculum offered is so confusing. It is mostly experimental, and after the first curriculum introduced, if it doesn't seem good, they change to another curriculum. Teachers and students are in a confusing situation.


What should be the criteria to fix the length of the curriculum or syllabus so that the syllabus can be finished within the time fixed for a particular course?


how can school curriculum help promote political development?


What is the real distinction between curriculum in public school and private school? And what is curriculum, anyway?


i need an explanation of a determinant of curriculum like psychological.


If one is asked to define curriculum using a metaphor, what could it be? like to complete the following phrase adding five extra words- "curriculum is like..."


curriculum, according to the traditional point of view held that, curriculum is a body of subjects or subject matter prepared by the teachers for the students to learn.

In the progressive approach, curriculum is defined as the total learning of the individual.


What are the distinguishing characteristics of the terms aims, goals and objectives as used in curriculum development and evaluation?


I have an opinion that politics should be included in curriculum so that those who have ambitions of being politicians know what it is all about.


which from among the elements or factors in the curriculum development plays among the important role? why?


I need a traditional definition of curriculum and a modern definition.


what is a prescribed curriculum?


an educational program designed with particular outcomes in mind but which most teachers are oblivious of.


It serves as the Holy Bible of every educator. It contains the three basic tenants of teaching, planning, implementing and evaluation. Curriculum is necessary to educational system. Curriculum may change in implementation or program but one thing will never be changed: it is to enhance students’ capability to learn.


what is a language curriculum for secondary schools?


Curriculum is a set of all learning. It is systematized, well-organized and implemented.


why is there a need to plan a curriculum?


curriculum should solve society's problems.


I would like to hear from anyone who has been involved in getting curriculum or syllabus changed. My partner and I are going to a very important one shot meeting and we would love to hear from you especially if you have prepared new material for the curriculum or syllabus as well.


Curriculum surely has a wide range of definitions for it. Which one do people use the most to define curriculum?


is it appropriate to reduce curriculum in a classroom?


What is the definition of the term curriculum in relation to its objectives and characteristics?


what is the influence of a single subject and broadfield curriculum in the accounting department?


curriculum should be school based not centrally based, (zaheer).


All the academic activities inside and outside of the school,(curricular and co-curricular activities), if the purpose behind these activities is to learn something, it is called curriculum.

thanks, aaj


what is curriculum development?


curriculum must be changed after every decade to meet the needs of the learners and be updated from now on what is the latest in education.


it is desirable for the students' writer to write?


the language curriculum for secondary school is english.


the one who prepare the curriculum is the one who plans for it. The person who is responsible enough to think about the better education.

Mostly, teachers are the one who prepare for it in school and doctors in hospitals and or a different person who is in the specific field.


can we refer to a subject (tradition or learning area) as curriculum?


what is difference between curriculum and a syllabus?


Can you consider a lesson plan as a curriculum?


why is there a need to change curriculum


What is language curriculum for secondary school?


What is the distinction between curriculum in public school and private school?


Who prepare the curriculum?


enter your comments or question here please kindly provide me with the historical development of curriculum in Nigeria.


a distinction between the components of syllabus and curriculum is desirable for fruitful discussions.


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