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What is Curriculum?

Tricia Christensen
Updated May 23, 2024
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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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Language & Humanities is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a Language & Humanities contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
Discussion Comments
By anon966742 — On Aug 21, 2014

What are the three interconnected parts of curriculum?

By anon952195 — On May 19, 2014

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.

By anon346606 — On Aug 29, 2013

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.

By anon327102 — On Mar 26, 2013

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

By anon323074 — On Mar 03, 2013

Can a school exist without a curriculum?

By Kristee — On Oct 16, 2012

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.

By kylee07drg — On Oct 16, 2012

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.

By anon281764 — On Jul 25, 2012

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.

By anon280803 — On Jul 20, 2012

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?

By anon230103 — On Nov 17, 2011

how can school curriculum help promote political development?

By anon200634 — On Jul 27, 2011

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

By anon192580 — On Jul 01, 2011

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

By anon142068 — On Jan 12, 2011

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..."

By avatrocio — On Jan 11, 2011

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.

By anon136270 — On Dec 22, 2010

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

By anon127678 — On Nov 17, 2010

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.

By anon126821 — On Nov 14, 2010

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

By anon122324 — On Oct 27, 2010

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

By anon118637 — On Oct 14, 2010

what is a prescribed curriculum?

By anon100640 — On Jul 30, 2010

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

By anon98357 — On Jul 22, 2010

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.

By anon92280 — On Jun 27, 2010

what is a language curriculum for secondary schools?

By anon92027 — On Jun 25, 2010

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

By anon87221 — On May 28, 2010

why is there a need to plan a curriculum?

By anon80193 — On Apr 26, 2010

curriculum should solve society's problems.

By anon76370 — On Apr 10, 2010

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.

By anon75554 — On Apr 07, 2010

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

By anon71297 — On Mar 18, 2010

is it appropriate to reduce curriculum in a classroom?

By anon69462 — On Mar 08, 2010

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

By anon68117 — On Mar 01, 2010

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

By anon65125 — On Feb 11, 2010

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

By anon64236 — On Feb 06, 2010

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

By anon62700 — On Jan 28, 2010

what is curriculum development?

By anon59406 — On Jan 08, 2010

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.

By anon51916 — On Nov 10, 2009

it is desirable for the students' writer to write?

By anon51658 — On Nov 08, 2009

the language curriculum for secondary school is english.

By anon51200 — On Nov 04, 2009

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.

By anon44155 — On Sep 05, 2009

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

By anon43861 — On Sep 02, 2009

what is difference between curriculum and a syllabus?

By anon37491 — On Jul 20, 2009

Can you consider a lesson plan as a curriculum?

By anon35993 — On Jul 09, 2009

why is there a need to change curriculum

By anon33999 — On Jun 15, 2009

What is language curriculum for secondary school?

By anon27950 — On Mar 08, 2009

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

By anon24668 — On Jan 16, 2009

Who prepare the curriculum?

By anon8685 — On Feb 19, 2008

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

By anon2771 — On Jul 25, 2007

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


Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a Language & Humanities contributor,...
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