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Philosophy Of School Curriculum

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Education
Wordcount: 5430 words Published: 3rd May 2017

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According to Orstein Hunkins, philosophy is an important foundation of curriculum because the philosophy advocated or reflected by a particular school and its officials influences its goals or aims and content, as well as the organization of its curriculum. In our drive to study philosophy, it helps us to deal with our personal beliefs and values. It more or less helps us to understand who we are, why we are, and to some extent where we are going.

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Philosophy according to Orstein & Hunkins (1988), requires looking beyond the immediate to causes and relationships and to future developments. In the words of William, (1965): cited by Orstein & Hunkins (1988), “our source of direction is found in our guiding philosophy”. That is to say, “our philosophy of education influences and to some extent determines our educational decisions, choices and alternatives.

However, philosophy provides educators, most especially curriculum workers and practitioners, with a framework or base for organizing schools and classrooms. The framework relates to the goals of education, content and its organization, the process of teaching and learning, and in general what experiences and activities they wish to stress in schools and classrooms. The importance of philosophy in determining curriculum decisions is articulated by Hopkins L. T (1945): cited by Orstein & Hunkins (1988), “when a state office suggests a pupil-teacher time schedule, this is based upon philosophy, either hidden or consciously formulated. When a course of study is prepared in advance in a school system by selected group of teachers, this represents philosophy because a course of action was selected from many choices involving different values”. However, there are several philosophical thoughts or perspectives that shape the education system of various societies and this play a role in development of curriculum.


As highlighted above, there are several perspectives in terms of philosophy of school curriculum. Different perspectives influence the way and type of manner education provided. It also influences people’s way of life and thinking. Some of these perspectives are based on cultural differences, views and so forth.


In shaping the ideals of education, different philosophies have emerged in various cultures and regions of the world. According to Aminuddin et. Al. (2011), Western philosophy of education is divided into two schools of thought, traditional and modern. They have their roots in Athens, Rome and Judeo-Christianity. In the other hand, the Eastern philosophy emanated from Islam, Confucianism, Taoism and Mahayana Buddhism. This according to Aminuddin et. al., (2011), as a result influenced their system of life, and certainly creates their education system. This reflects their ways of developing and shaping an individual, in terms of skills and attitudes. Therefore each culture will have different philosophies, which results in different ways of doing things especially in educating the next generation.

The various philosophical thoughts highlighted include perspectives on students’ participation in classroom, teaching methodology, and learning approach to name a few (Aminuddin et. al., 2011). For this task only these three perspectives will be discussed.

STUDENTS’ PARTICIPATION: In terms of students’ participation in classroom, the Westerners stressed more on active learning among their learners. According to Joyce Lin, 2008: cited by Aminuddin et. al., (2011), it encourages students to be more active in giving and sharing the ideas, which is maximizing their role as students than the teacher in creating effective learning and teaching activity. Students are given the opportunity to voice out their views especially when involved in group discussion and present it to the class. Furthermore, students are also given the opportunity to express their ability and solve problems on their own. Problem solving process according to Thornton (1995) becomes one of the aspects of children with regards to their critical mental development.

In the other hand, Easterners prefer passive learning since they normally obtained the knowledge directly from their religious teachings such as Islam, Buddhism, Confucianism, Hinduism and Taoism (Chia Mun Onn, 2009: cited by Aminuddin et. al., 2011). The Eastern education philosophy stressed on the major outcomes from the teachers in the teaching and learning process. Generally, this means that teachers are fully responsible on the class effectiveness, by preparing and planning all activities for the students. As compared to Westerners, students are not encouraged to voice out their own views and perspectives (Aminuddin et. al., 2011). According to Joyce Lin (2008): cited by Aminuddin et. al., 2011, in certain cases, students are not allowed to respond to questions posed by the teacher since they are meant for the teachers to answer.

TEACHING METHODOLOGY: With regards to the teaching process, it can portray how philosophy influences its people through the education system. Generally the teaching method or approach is expected to differ due to differences in cultural beliefs. From the perspectives of the Western education philosophy, students’ roles are recognized, by giving the students rights and respects within the teaching and learning process (Aminuddin et. al., 2011). Accordingly, they have the freedom and rights to take charge of their own learning, since they are given the opportunity and freedom to manage their own learning process (Aminuddin et. al., 2011).

In Eastern education philosophy, it holds in the concept of teaching. Students learn and receive knowledge in a rigid way from their teachers. According to Gurney, 2007: cited by Aminuddin et., al. (2011), there is no doubt that a good teacher need to be very hard working in delivering ideas, teaching and maintaining good working relationship with their children.

LEARNING APPROACH: According to Aminuddin et. al., 2011, learning approaches caused the development of various types of students. Westerners believed that the best education is meant to form the society to become a cultural nation in regard of this education and education aim, where the children will be open-minded and tend to give ideas (Kruger, et. al., 1990: cited by Aminuddin et. al., 2011). According to this approach students learn by understanding the concepts and do not memorize. It avails them the opportunity to discuss with their peers and can work independently when assigned to do a research.

In the other hand, in Eastern education the students practiced memorization in the teaching and learning process (Joyce Lin, 2008: cited by Aminuddin et. al., 2011). According to Aminuddin et. al., 2011, the system of education is exam oriented and teachers have to rush through the textbooks to prepare students to sit for tests. Due to time constraints students are compelled to memorize rather than understanding the facts presented.


Looking at the influence of curriculum by philosophical thought, several classification schemes are possible; no superiority is thus claimed for the categories used. These often evolve during curriculum development.

IDEALISM: According to Orstein & Hunkins (1988), Plato is often identified as giving classic formulation to idealist philosophy, one of the oldest that exist. However, the leading contemporary proponent of idealism is J. Donald Butler. According to the idealist, emphasis is placed on moral and spiritual reality as the chief explanation of the world. Truth and values are seen as absolute, timeless and universal. As a primarily intellectual process, learning involves recalling and working with ideas; education is properly concerned with conceptual matters. According to the idealist, at the top of the hierarchy are the most general abstract subjects: Philosophy and theology and lower in curricular ladder are the natural and physical sciences.

REALISM: According to Orstein & Hunkins (1988), Aristotle is often linked to the development of realism, another traditional school of thought. According to the realists, “the world is viewed in terms of objects and matter”. Through their senses and reasons people can come to know the world. Everything is derived from nature and is subject to laws. The realists stressed a curriculum consisting of organized, separate subject matter, content and knowledge that classifies objects. For instance, human experiences can be related to history and animals studied under zoology. To realists “teachers are the source of authority”. Modern realists include Harry Broudy and John Wild.

PRAGMATISM: Pragmatism according Orstein & Hunkins (1988), is also referred to experimentalism is based on change, process, and relativity. It construes knowledge as a process in which reality is constantly changing. According to pragmatists learning occurs as a person engages in problem-solving; problem-solving is, moreover transferable to a wide variety of subjects and situations. In looking at the interaction between learner and environment, there is constant change, as with the transactions or experiences. Teaching is more exploratory than explanatory. What is needed is a method for dealing with change and scientific investigation in an intelligent manner. The great educational pragmatist is John Dewey, who sees education as a process of improving human condition.

EXISTENTIALISM: in as much as pragmatism is mainly an American philosophy that evolved before the turn of the 20th century, existentialism was mainly a European philosophy that became popular after World War II. Some of the proponents of existentialism in American Education include Maxine Greene, George Kneller, and Van Cleve Morris who stressed that individualism and personal self-fulfillment (Orstein & Hunkins, (1988).

According to existentialists, individuals have to make their choices and decisions. Whatever we choose varies from other individuals. They prefer to free learners to choose what to study and to determine what is true. Furthermore, they stated that the most important kind of knowledge is about the human condition and the choices each person has to make, and that education is a process of developing consciousness about the freedom to choose and the meaning of responsibility to one’s choices.


The educational system in Malaysia as in many countries in Asia encompasses education beginning from pre-school to university. Pre-tertiary education (pre-school to secondary) which is under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Education (MOE) while tertiary or higher education is under the purview of the Ministry of Higher Education (MOHE). According to the vision of the Government is to make Malaysia a centre of educational excellence.

According to MOE, the administration and management of education in Malaysia is central. However, the Ministry is organized into four levels that is, federal, state, district and school. Furthermore, the district education departments serve only educational functions rather than administrative needs (MOE, 1990)

The education Act 1996 outlines all the levels of education under the education system, which comprise pre-school, primary and secondary education. With reference to section 18 of the Act, it stipulated that the national curriculum be used in all school (Malaysia – curriculum). There is a common central assessment and examinations at the end of the respective periods of schooling and the national language, which is Malay is the official language of instruction (Rahman & Ahmad, 1998).


According to the National Philosophy of Education (NPE), “Education in Malaysia is an on-going effort towards further developing the potential of individuals in a holistic and integrated manner so as to produce individuals who are intellectually, spiritually, emotionally and physically balanced and harmonious, based on firm belief in and devotion to God. Such an effort is designed to produce Malaysian citizens who are knowledgeable and competent, who possess high moral standards, and who are responsible and capable of achieving a high level of personal well-being, as well as being able to contribute to the betterment of the society and the nation at large”.

The fundamental aim of the NEP was to achieve the country’s vision to prepare children to become knowledgeable, highly trained and skilled individuals in order to meet the challenges of the millennium. However, it hoped that in order for this to be achieved, emphasis should be made on science and technology, use of information technology, and inculcating good moral and work ethics that is relevant for the Information Age (Rahman & Ahmad, 1998).

Educational activities and programmes are more specifically intended to achieve the following objectives:

‘provide pupils with the essential intellectual, affective and psychomotor skills in a holistic and integrated manner to produce individuals who are intellectually, physically, emotionally and spiritually balanced and functionally literate’;

‘inculcate and nurture national consciousness through fostering common ideas, values, aspirations and loyalties in order to mould national unity and national identity in a multiethnic society’;

‘produce manpower with the requisite skills for economic and national development’;

‘inculcate in pupils desired moral values and to promote personality and aesthetic development as well as the sense of responsible and disciplined, and progressively enabling them to contribute effectively towards nation-building’.

According to the National Education Act 1996, there is no discrimination against any citizen in terms of access to education and financial support for the maintenance of pupils and students in any educational institution. As enshrined in the Federal Constitution, equality and equal rights are fundamental liberties (www.ibe.unesco.org)


The concept of curriculum is elusive and epistemologically ill defined, because of the fact that education is everybody’s business, from the lay person to the educational scientists. This compounded with by the mere fact that there is not much agreement on where curriculum matters finish and where the rest of education begins. Curriculum in Latin means a racing chariot; currere was to run (quoted by A. Van. Loggerenberg, 2000).

According to Tyler’s (1958) and Taba’s (1962) definition, curriculum is defined as a plan for teaching or instruction. Pratt (1945:5) expanded the definition to “a plan for a sustained process of teaching and learning”. According to shepherd and Ragan (Orstein and Hunkins, 1998: 9), stated that a curriculum “consists of the ongoing experiences of children under the guidance of the school where children achieve self-realization through active participation within the school”. Therefore, the tendency to define curriculum in terms of experience, and merely a plan, arose as a result of the feeling that what was planned in a written document was not necessarily put into practice by means of experiences (Lewy, 1991:27).

In further looking at other various definitions of curriculum, Van Rooy 1996:92: (cited by Van Rooy Loggerenberg, 2000) defined curriculum as “the interrelated totality of aims, learning content, evaluation procedures and teaching-learning activities and opportunities and experiences which guide and implement the didactic activities in a planned and justified manner.


CURRICULUM: refers to the intended learning outcomes, content and subject matter, activity and experiences, and assessment and evaluation, the purpose of which is to enable the achievement of learning goals.

LEARNING OUTCOME: is the measurable performance that student can demonstrate as a result of learning.

EXAMINATION: is a formalized process of evaluation of a student’s achievement of theoretical and/or practical learning outcomes.

CURRICULUM DEVELOPMENT: is the selection and organization of a set of intended learning outcomes (J. Mckimm, 2007).

CURRICULUM ASSESSMENT: is a process of gathering and analyzing information from multiple sources in order to improve student learning in sustainable ways (Wolf, P. et. al., 2006).

CURRICULUM IMPLEMENTATION: entails putting into practice the officially prescribed course of study, syllabuses and subjects (University of Zimbabwe, 1995:8).


Educational philosophy shaped to coordinate in detail how by student curriculum formation unite and form various methods in lesson system and learning. Philosophy of school curriculum is objective to upgrade the education systems for each level of school in Malaysia. Philosophy is also known as references to government which helps them to improve the pupils ‘skills and knowledge. Besides, philosophy in education can be one of the elements in teaching methods and how teacher can contribute excellent the learning outcomes and also effective teaching to them. The curriculum of school in Malaysian is one of the phases to upgrade the education system. However, the global were occurred evolution with slowly process, the people’s knowledge must be updated through recognizing and initiative to has the education. According to Zamrus A.Rahman and Mokelas Ahmad (1998) says;

“The school curriculum is expected to contribute to the holistic development of the individual (mental, emotional, physical, spiritual) by imparting general knowledge and skills, fostering healthy attitudes and installing accepted moral values. The aim is produce Malaysian citizens who are balanced, trained, skillful, and cherish the national aspiration for unity”.

Actually, curriculum at school in Malaysia is performing to improve quality of education and pupils’ knowledge indirectly to obtain the aims of the National Education Philosophy (NEP). The NEP has mechanism to implementing the curriculum system towards achieving the nation’s vision to enhance pupils’ skills and knowledge, other than to train the students to know the situation and importance to society which they has different religion understanding, ethnic and custom.


In Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, metaphysics is defined as a branch of philosophy concerned with explaining the fundamental nature of being and the world, although the term is not easily defined. A person who studies metaphysics is called a metaphysicist or a metaphysician. The metaphysician attempts to clarify the fundamental notions by which people understand the world.)

The word ‘metaphysics comes to us from Ancient Greece – meta, meaning higher – beyond earth physics or invisible physics. In other meaning, metaphysics is referred to as a branch of philosophy that deals with first cause (factors contribute the issue) and the nature of being.

Metaphysics has become a description of many field of interest such as philosophy, religion, human science and etc. However, aspects absorption metaphysics in curriculum in school implemented to coordinate learning principle that not only just focus to language field, even student also learn various different subject to achieve Malaysian educational of philosophy. Metaphysics are one of part in principles of students learning and students have options to learn it. For examples;

Science; Physics, Chemistry, Biology

Moral education/ Islamic studies


Mathematics/add mathematics

Information Technology

Technique and Vocational

For example, Moral education subject introduced to coordinate and practiced a moral judgments and moral ethics in their learning. Moral education taught at public and private school focuses on producing citizens of noble character through the appreciation and development of good values in daily life. Metaphysics learning process involved various activities such as, practiced a good behavior, understanding of religion, multi-racial cultural and etc. Moreover, the student can get other benefit such as how to contribute moral and ethics as role-part in all community, other than to improve the personal attitude to them.

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The Ministry of Education starts on the Primary School’s New Curriculum (KBSR) in 1983, whereas in 1989, the Secondary Schools’ Integrated Curriculum (KBSM) was made public. The government was aimed at forming a knowledge and educated community, as well as generating a community that plays a vital part in the development of education country. Their planning is restructuring education curriculum for those institutions and school in Malaysia. Benefits to expose the metaphysic in curriculum system are;

Introduce to produce professionals and skilled – workers in the fields of science and technology.

Develop individuals with morality, discipline and training.

Manipulate living skills like critical thinking, teamwork and problem solving.

Concerned in creating a united nation, integrated in multiracial people in Malaysia.

Interpret as uniting the schoolchildren of various races to provide a workforce geared towards the needs of the economy.

To create a society that would be united, disciplined and well – trained.

To emphasize on producing students with knowledge and good moral values, nurturing balanced individuals who will be able to contribute to the betterment of society and the nation.


The reality in restructuring education curriculum system is emphasis their knowledgeable such as to faced science and technology era. However, the implementation strategies is to make the national language the main medium of instruction like Bahasa Melayu as first instruction in learning and teaching at the primary and secondary school and second language such as English, Mandarin and Tamil can be communicate in other matters. On other than, the National Education Policy requires the development and training of teachers who are eligible as trainers and also the establishment of schools to sustain the increasing enrollment of school – going children.


The national curriculum encourages the integrated unity is ways to unite the pupils through the use of a first method during Penyata Razak (1956) put into practice the use of Malay Language as medium instruction. Then, Malay Language become as provision of core subjects for all students either different race and ethics and emphasize students to pass- compulsory during examination such as UPSR (Ujian Penilain Sekolah Rendah), PMR ( Peperiksaan Menengah Rendah) and SPM (Sijil Peperiksaan Malaysia). Eventually, the cultural diversity of different ethnic groups in Malaysia is conserved through the structuring the National Type School, which are consent to use other major ethnic languages as the medium of instruction like Chinese, Tamil and English languages.

Malaysia’s system of curriculum development is federal to implement the mechanism education system to all school at every state. The Ministry of Education through its central agency, specifically the Curriculum Development Centre (CDC) has responsible to apply development of the pre-school, primary school and secondary school curriculum. Other authority which has responsible to improve and develop the system of curriculum in various committees is the Ministry of Education, State Education Departments, Division/ District Education Offices and Schools.


The following policy guidelines provide the rationale why school curriculum is essential in shaping the lives and aspiration of the Malaysian people. Laws have been enacted and regulations put in place by government in administering the educational provisions needed. Some of these include the Education Act 1996, Education regulations, and other gazette documents relevant to the education sector.


According to The Education Act 1996, covers all level of education under the national education system, which comprises preschool, primary and secondary education, Section 18 of the ACT stipulates the of the national curriculum to be used in all schools. Specially, section 18 stipulates the following;

The Ministry shall prescribe a curriculum to be known as the National Curriculum which, subject to subsection (3), shall be used by all schools in the National Educational System.

The National Curriculum prescribed under subsection (1) shall specify the knowledge, skills and values that are expected to be acquired by pupils at the end of their respective periods of schooling and shall include are core subjects as set out in the Schedule and such are the subjects as may be prescribed.

In the case of private schools, subsection (1) shall be deemed to have been complied with if the core subjects of the National Curriculum as set out in the Schedule are taught in the schools.

The Minister may from time to time by order published in the Gazette amend or alter the Schedule.


Sharifah Maimunah (1999) says that the Education Regulations is one of the medium to emphasize the curriculum education design on all pupils without seeing their age and knowledge. At the following The Education Regulations present the list of subjects are categorized based on levels of schooling;

Compulsory subjects – that include all subjects other than the core subjects that must be learned by all pupils in government and government -aided schools. If they were failure the subjects, they must be to take again and pass- compulsory.

Core subjects – are subjects that must be learned by all pupils in government and assisted schools and private schools.

Elective subjects – which are subjects other than the compulsory and the core subjects chosen by pupils in government and government – supported schools according to their interests, talents, abilities and potential.

Additional subjects – are subjects taught and strengthening knowledge in accordance with the act in government and government aided schools.

Eventually, the types of subjects will be charging based on the beneficial to all community and has been ability to contribute the good moral and values education to future. Each of subjects has been functions in various perspectives and the implementation has always been characterized by Education Ministry to adapt education to national education policy. Introduction core, elective and additional subjects are one of the part how the government putting ability and mastered to students’ knowledge. Other than that, three categorize including in implementation systems KBSM (Kurikulum Bersepadu Sekolah Menengah) for Secondary School and KBSR (Kurikulum Bersepadu Sekolah Rendah) for primary school. In structuring KBSM and KBSR emphasize the teaching and learning (P&P) and efforts the government to develop education systems or method fully – recognizing in every level school.

For Example, Moral education and Islamic education are categorized as core subjects in school. Moral education need to be learned by non- Muslim students and Islamic education for Muslim students. The objective implementing that subject is to understanding conceptual of knowledge via, ethics, moral values and disciplinary matters. The students can also expose to theories and values system that became priority to our society and country.


Under the context of theory of knowledge, epistemology is among the most important areas of philosophy. Which analyses knowledge as justified true belief? However, some justified true beliefs do not constitute knowledge. There are rival analyses of knowledge have been proposed, but yet there is no consensus on what knowledge is. This fundamental question of epistemology remains unsolved. In other words, it is primarily concerned with what we can know about the world and how we can know it. Knowledge is fixed, certain, absolute, predetermined and pre-existing prior to human experience.

Examples of concern in epistemology are:

What is knowledge?

How do we know we know?

Is knowledge given?

From where do we get our knowledge? This is second most important area epistemology. The sources of our knowledge. Two traditions, first is empiricism, which holds that our knowledge is primarily based in experience, and the second is rationalism, which holds that our knowledge is primarily based in reason. Even though the modern scientific world view borrows from empiricism, there are also reasons for thinking that synthesis of the two traditions is truer than either of them individually.

How are our beliefs justified? Another topic in the theory of knowledge, it is important to decide evidence when deciding what to believe, for the reason that by doing so we are more likely to form beliefs that are true. Exactly how this should work, when we are justified in believing something and when we are not. That is the feeling of being certain that something exists or is true.

How do we perceive the world around us? Perception is a complex process, a belief or opinion, often held by many people and based on how things seem .The way we experience the world may be determined in part by the world. It is also determined in part by us. Moreover, we do not passively receive information through our senses. The quality of being aware of things through the physical senses especially sight.


(i). Scientific Knowledge- Consider something of a fact or phenomenon acquired through scientific method. It is knowledge through perception which is inductive not deductive. Scientific knowledge is knowledge through observation and does not arise from planned observation. It is a rapid acquisition and short term prediction. It is about explanations bases on hypothesis, theories, and laws. This scientific knowledge occurs in schools to ensure the students are being prepared from the very start about the scientific perception. In schools, subject like biology, chemistry and physics are taught in formal manners which very closely to scientific methods to expose students about the nature of scientific knowledge. Moreover, students usually have given experiments to conduct in labs with more strict procedures which apply all scientific knowledge to better understanding. Most science subjects in schools deals with hypothesis, theories and laws, this provides a vast understanding of scientific knowledge for students at early age.

To elaborate more science is not only a body of knowledge, but also a way of knowing. Most important for learning science is students’ understanding of the nature and structure of scientific knowledge and the process which it is developed. This ensures students’ grasp of scientific explanations of the natural world and their ability to successfully engage in scientific investigations.

(ii). Moral Knowledge- Moral principles are more generalized where it is about actions, people, character traits, policies and practices. In moral knowledge is important in terms of rationality and morality were when one makes moral judgment about actions or people by providing reasons supporting them. In schools moral education is being taught to instill good values in students at


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