In the education set-up, how the curriculum needs to be framed is an issue of great concern for educationists and teachers concerned. The curriculum involves planning of the subjects or prescribed course material that is to be taught to the class or students. Curriculum constitutes the most important part of the education system for students in school and of Adult and Vocational Education. Educationists have to face many issues and have to keep many concepts in mind while framing the Curriculum. Decision-making in the process of setting of Curriculum is now considered as the most crucial issue being faced by instructors and teachers concerned. The government needs to determine whatever curriculum fixed by the industry as regards to the Adult and Vocational Training, is being implemented with full letter and spirit by teachers and instructors.
The following essay will be taken into consideration decision-making process in the curriculum set up for the Adult Vocational Training and which need to be applied in the prescribed curriculum in practice. It is seen that majority of Adult Vocational learners prefer learning from the convenience of their work place or of their home, and at their own flexible timings. To facilitate their process, online methodology is a most preferred method. Preparing online lessons for these learners is biggest challenge in front of the designers of Curriculum. The biggest issue lies how should the Curriculum be presented and organized online so as to make it not only convenient for the learners but also simple and interactive. But before going on to discuss these issues there is a need to first understand what is ‘Curriculum’ and the theories that have been developed in the whole of Curriculum process.
‘Curriculum’ and its various Orientations
The word ‘Curriculum’ is used in different ways according to the own set of beliefs and ideologies. Different educationists use the term ‘Curriculum’ keeping in view number of issues faced by them which is a key to the fundamental concept on which curriculum is based. Glatthorn has classified different types of curriculum like ideal curriculum, entitlement curriculum, intended or written curriculum, available curriculum, implemented curriculum, achieved and attained curriculum. (Print, 4) Whereas Print has prescribed different characteristics to curriculum like curriculum as subject matter, experience, intention, reproduction, and curriculum as ‘currere’. (Print, 5-6) One way to understand curriculum is through the consideration of intentions, and different emphasis and scope. Curriculum is defined as:
“All the planned learning opportunities offered to learners by the educational institution and the experiences learners encounter when the curriculum is implemented. This includes the experience those activities that educators have devised for learners which are invariably represented in the form of the written document and the process whereby teachers make decisions to implement those activities given interaction with context variables such as learners, resources teachers and the learning environment” (Print, 9).
Before prescribing any curriculum, educationists have to adopt particular orientation towards it seeking the set of goals and procedures according to which curriculum is set. Hereby I have taken the curriculum, which is set in the adult vocational education in their online learning and the issues which are involved in the curriculum process. Blatchford has identified the orientation towards curriculum that can be understood and applied in the process of adult vocational education. He suggested that curriculum should be considered in the term of technology with clear, definite and procedural steps. The focus should be to develop the cognitive skills by the students, their ability to learn, the way they could solve the problem and the behaviour objectives. Development and personality goal of the whole class is taken into consideration and aim is to make the curriculum interactive and the emphasis is made on the social concerns. (Concepts of Curriculum, 14) Smith and Lovat developed three phases of curriculum orientation: Technical, Hermaneutics and Critical. The curriculum is developed on basis of the scientific and rational thinking which is a most crucial part in the curriculum process. Secondly in Hermaneutics, social and cultural values of students are taken into consideration. Emphasis is made on the basis of time, culture and knowledge and in critical concept; the focus is more given on the development of the critical skills by students. (Smith & Lovat, 81; Concepts of Curriculum, 16).
To aim this objective curriculum developers need to involve different types of interactive content and delivery mediums and consideration needs to be given to how best the design services can be effectively use to develop the resources. Another point to be kept in mind are the best way the materials are reused and adapted. (Australian Flexible Learning Framework, 4).
Issues in Decision Making process
When curriculum is produced before the instructors or teachers in the adult vocational education process, they have to face number of challenges in their decision making process. There is a big challenge in front of the educationists in the way they should plan curriculum, develop the syllabus, and evaluate depth of worthiness of the curriculum. In other words, to make judgment on the extent to which curriculum is valuable for the learners.
Since the real purpose of framing curriculum is not to make instructor perform certain activities and functions but to bring about certain changes in the behaviour and pattern of students. Within this context, the preparation of curriculum involves finding out need of the learners, forming objectives and selecting content. In online teaching process, as the instructor and learner are not face to face so curriculum needs to be more interactive as compared to the class room learning. Learning must be made to feel through words as if their instructor is in front of them and guiding them. Moreover facility can also be given to the learner to address their queries through online and be an active participant in the class.
Another big challenge in front of the students is the importance of the values that students cherish, but these values keep on changing with the change of time and the framers have to make modifications of the curriculum accordingly.
In the U S Secretary of Education (2000), the aspect and effect of online learning is emphasized, “If technology is used as an add on to existing activities, rather than as a means to reshape education, then it will simply add to the total cost of operations and few savings will be realized. Business has learned that productivity gained and cost savings come only when old ways of doing business are abandoned and technological solutions replace them”. (U S Secretary of Education, 120) The suggestion of Moore is very important in the context of distance education in the line of the detailed proposal. Distance education has three forms of communication process: the first one is learner content interaction, second is learner instructor interaction, and third is learner interaction. (Curtain, 17) As regards to the interaction between the learner and content, Smith, Ferguson and Caris suggested that online delivery due to the dependence on context based interaction and lack of visual cues requires that each aspect of the course should be laid out in meticulous detail to avoid misunderstanding.
The whole decision making process is undertaken with the help of the TAFE model constituting five stages: Analysis, design, conduct, evaluation and validation. This model has been in use in various Adult and Vocational Educational Institutes with the design based on the occupational analysis and imparting of the industrial skills. Mealyea criticized this model emphasizing that at one stage, there is a need for the students to perform self-study and it becomes difficult for those students whose literacy and independent study skills have not yet developed and they could suffer due to the serious consequences. (Elements of Curriculum development, design and implementation, 9).
National Training Board proposed another model in 1992. It’s an NTB model of national curricula and is a ‘top-down’ model. It has the characteristic of occupational analysis, which determines the way learning processes should be initiated. Before execution, the approval must be taken by representatives of the industrialists and then translated into programmes, courses, learning experiences to meet the desired objectives. This process ignores the way practitioners think and act. It ignores the ideas of practitioners and educationists. Teachers mainly implement and construct the curriculum according to their experience and needs of the class. Yet another component in the curriculum process is its capacity to respond to new initiatives and how to implement and evaluate these initiatives. (Elements of Curriculum development, design and implementation, 10).
With the development of and Further Education in Australia, Kangan, Chairman of the Australian Committee on Technical and Further Education 1974, put before the argument that the general and vocational education should be differentiated. Kangan proposed that, “general education was relevant to, and useful in vocational education and that most vocational education also secured the purposes of general education.” (Stevenson, 58; Concepts of Curriculum, 22) The particular and popular values ascribed to general and vocational education will in turn exert an influence on how they are valued and who adopts them. In all the processes of the framing of the curriculum, Jackson suggested there is a need for accountability and control. We can say from one angle that teachers are the real curriculum makers and have always engaged themselves in the modification process of the curriculum to make it operational and more practical while teaching.
Scope of the Curriculum
According to Dennis Lawton, the Academic Secretary of the Universities Council for the Education of Teachers (UCET) said “it is better to see curriculum not just a bolt on complication to school organization but as an integral aspect of a changing culture”. (Tai & Li, 501) Technology and vocational education should provide students opportunity to be more creative and innovative, solve the problems and the method to develop and learn new skills. But there is a need to consider the aspect that the vocational education must follow the changes in the social as well as the industrial structure. Framers of curriculum should make efforts to recognize that any design and plan for the technological and vocational education should be different in form and content than the other educational needs. There should be difference in approach with distinctive characteristic in designing curriculum for vocational schools. Online learning is a best way that could provide this different approach. The directions for each assignment should be spelled in a logical way. “Web-based distance classes require considerably more work, often including hundreds of hours of up-front work to set up the course. On the other hand, the development of an online class, especially one that began as a face-to-face course, makes the instructor confront and analyze the material in new and different ways.” (Smith, Ferguson & Caris, 3). Smith, Ferguson and Caris also noted that the written word if laid on the online discussions would help in developing a deeper level of understanding and thinking process and would help in the encouragement of much wider participation among learners. In addition to it the instructors focus on the fact that the importance of the instructor should change from the content provider to the content facilitator bringing in the proficiency in the use of language. The number of usage and potential assessment programs in the Australia’s vocational education and training (VET) had been examined and taken care of.
Goodlad and Su pinpointed the fact that there should be scope related to the horizontal organization of the substance of the curriculum. Scope not just related to the cognitive learning but also learning in the affective and spiritual way. It should not just impart students with the depth and range of the various contents but also the varieties and types of learning experiences formed to involve students in the learning process. (Goodlad and Su, 327) Another sequence is the vertical relationship in the various curriculum areas whereby as suggested by Smith, Stanley and Shores that educators have to formulate four principles: implying simple to complex learning process, prerequisite learning, whole to part learning process and chronological learning. (Tai & Li, 502) Piaget theory provides a simple framework in the process of sequencing and following of the experiences. His theory suggested that human brain is affected by the experiences, which they have to face in the educational environment. Any content and experience imparted by the educators permit the human brain to progress and deal with the various curriculum dimensions. (Tai & Li, 502).
Framing Curriculum in Developing countries
The challenge in framing the curriculum for vocational and educational training is much more in the developing nations than in the developed nations. These nations have their own set of problems. Social attitudes are the major hindrances in the path of imparting the vocational education. Negative attitudes that are shown towards the manual labour reduce the demand for the vocational education. There is a suspicion among the students of the vocational curricula that, vocational curricula provide “a second-class education and track some individuals — lower class or lower caste, racial minorities and women — away from academic education and access to jobs of the highest pay and status.” (Tilak, 680) The framers of the curriculum for the VET have to consider this negative attitude and frame the structure of the curriculum in the way more and more people get attracted towards it and seek their advantage in joining the courses.
Secondly, there is a relation between the enrolments during the vocational educational process and the level of the education development. There is more demand for the vocational education in the industrially developing areas. As Psacharopoulos and Loxley also felt that the lower the overall level of the development of the country, the weaker is their case of the vocational curriculum yet not in several areas the need for the vocational education is being felt. (Psacharopoulos & Loxley, 228) As the importance of VET is being felt in the nations, framers of the curriculum began to feel more and more challenges in the form of the changing structure and needs of the industries, the standard of the working staff, their level of education and the decision of language easily understood to them. The framers also need to see the extent of the mismatches in the skills of graduates and the requirements of the labour market.
Vocational training is much costlier than general training. While framing Curriculum, framers have to decide on the cost factor too as it is the cost which plays the most important role in the developing nations. Dwindling of educational budgets create hindrance in assembling resources for complete technical vocational education. Taking this factor in consideration, design of the curriculum is being framed. Besides scarcity of the sources, confusions also faced by the government to provide efficacy of the VET programmes. The rate of return arising out of the vocational education is negligible. In 1991, World Bank with the International Labor Organization produced its policy paper on Vocational Education and Training. Since that time, the reforms of VET in both poor and rapidly growing countries has turned into new directions for making skills more relevant for fulfilling the needs of growing private sector employment. (Gill, Fluitman & Dar, 1) Since then the Government’s expectations towards VET has increased manifold leading to the various programs and policies to increase Online teaching which could reduce unemployment, and increase the need of private companies in the globalized environment.
The other problems are language issues and immigrants. For e.g. million of adults in America are not proficient in English and out of them, majority are immigrants. Many immigrants do not understand English at all. Among them eighty percent of the immigrants belong to the third world nations and have very limited job skills. These hindrances come in their way of developing the curriculum for online methodology.. The amount and the kind of assistance they need is decided after taking analysis of their educational and employment background, English language proficiency, and the way they deal with the culture of United States and the personal goals of the individual. The requirements for the adult immigrants to take up the job quickly also necessitates on their part to complete the training process as quickly as possible. Here the need for the online methodology if felt. The care is taken to set curriculum in the way Online learners can quickly and efficiently grasp all lessons and get prepared to search for the their suitable job.
Curriculum is decided so that they are imparted with the training skills as quickly as possible. The training process at the work place and at their work site is suggested to be the best option for them and the purpose is bring out the skills in them according to the company’s needs. In the process curriculum, it is also decided on the two methods of job development: crises placement and investment. Here the most important aspect to be taken into consideration is the client’s need for employment. What is the requirement of the client while seeking employment? This is the biggest aspect and challenge in front of the framers of the curriculum. The second is the investment approach whereby the security of the aspirant is taken into consideration. (Cheryl, Online).
E-learning develops new knowledge through the socially dynamic process and interplay of several beliefs and previous knowledge. We can say that the knowledge building is a most important social component and a catalyst in this whole process and online learning increases the scope of this knowledge-based learning. As individuals gain more knowledge they are able to disseminate this to others who again enter into knowledge building dialogue. Some of the critics of online learning like Alexander and Baud argue that the potentialities in the online learning process is being lost because too much pedagogy of online learning has been transferred unreflectively from didactic traditional teaching where the computer substitutes for the teacher and textbook as a conveyor of information. (Stephenson, 3) Yet online learning is an ongoing trend of today, it is another physical environment, and in fact more complex than some others. (Stephenson, 4) The most conventional way of lecturing has taken the form of e-lectures. What is passed on as online learning or e-learning is little more than lectures that could be delivered online in the form of text, audio and video.
A negative aspect of online learning is the social issues as learners only interact in a virtual social setting rather than face to face in the environment of a class room setting. But for the proponents of the online learning what is a better way than online to give fast, proficient and effective vocational training to adults. In contrast some opponents suggest, pure online learning would rarely be the mode of first choice for students. (Warner, Christie & Choy 1998) Online delivery to students based off-campus may appear, on the surface, to be a low-cost option when compared with traditional distance education delivery by despondence. However, when compared with traditional modes of distance delivery, it appeared to be more costly because of the extra support learners required or demanded. (Australian Flexible Learning Framework, 4).
Framers of the educationists need to take into consideration various aspects like social, financial, cultural, needs and aspirations of the learners and in this process, they are faced with various challenges like cost factor, educational background of the learners, the way instructors and teachers adopt to the curriculum and give the instructions. The curriculum also needs to be modified from time to time with the change of time and values learners carry with them.
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