This journal was written by: Siti Munawirah binti Abdul Rahman.(2009). IPGM Kampus Tun Hussein Onn.BP
OVERLOADED CURRICULUM AND ITS EFFECTS TO THE TEACHER
In every country, curriculum is a prime part and plays vital roles in education. According to Levin (2008) curriculum is defined as an official statement of what students are expected to know and be able to do. It shows that the curriculum was designed especially for students to learn in school or to have the desired or needed knowledge that have been decided by the Ministry of Education to face the current world. For a teacher, the curriculum defines the skills that students should learn established by the state or developed by a committee (McGinn and Borden, 1995). On the other hand, Kerr defines curriculum as, 'All the learning which is planned and guided by the school, whether it is carried on in groups or individually, inside or outside the school. (Kelly, 1983 and 1999). Hence, it can be summarized that curriculum is something which is taught in school in a set of subjects where it has specific content and objectives to achieve by the students and it is also including activities, guidance and interpersonal relationships. Therefore, generally curriculum also can be defined as the whole plan which is desired by a school or academic institution to achieve the aims of education [Cabinet Report Book (1979) in Abdullah Sani, (2005)]
Curriculum in Malaysia is primary guided by the National Philosophy of Education (NPE). Referring to the Malaysian Ministry of Education, the national curriculum is an educational programme that includes curriculum and co-curricular activities which encompasses all the knowledge, skills norms, values, cultural elements and beliefs to help develop a pupil fully with respect to the physical, spiritual, mental and emotional aspects as well as to inculcate and develop desirable moral values and to transmit knowledge [Education Act (1996) in Abdullah Sani, 2005]. However, there is a problem that occurred in the education system in Malaysia which relates to the curriculum that is the overload curriculum. Consequently, this problem had caused some effects to several parties such as students, teachers, parents and the policy makers themselves. Hence, I will elaborate more about the overload curriculum which is focusing on the effects it brings to the teachers.
In Malaysia, the Integrated Curriculum for Primary School (ICPS or KBSR) is divided into 2 phases that is Phase I (Year 1-3) and Phase II (Year 4-6). The ICPS emphasizes the mastery, reinforcement and application of the 3Rs (reading, writing and arithmetic) acquisition of complex skills and knowledge, prevocational skill, and the development of personality, attitudes and values (Ministry of Education, 2002). As stated by Apple (2004), it recognizes that education is also a site of conflict about the kind of knowledge that is and should be taught, about whose knowledge is official, and about who has the right to decide what is to be taught, how it is organized and how teaching and learning are to be evaluated. In Malaysian primary schools, there are 13 subjects taught in the National School while 14 subjects in National-Type School namely the Malay language, Chinese/Tamil language, English language, Mathematics, Islamic Education, Moral Education, Art Education, Music, Health Education, Physical Education, Science, Local Studies, Living Skills and Assembly. From the subjects above, it has already proven the compactness of the curriculum in school though it still not including the syllabus or the topics in each subjects. This is not a good sign as too many education policies and a good deal of contemporary research has lost sight of [the] important insight that education policy [and curriculum studies] need to be informed by a sensitivity to the nature of the wider society (Whitty, 2002)
According to a research made by the Cabinet Committee towards the National Education Fundamental in 1979, they had identified several weaknesses caused by the overload curriculum as follows: 1)Lesson content sometimes repeated and unrelated between subjects or standard. 2) The subject syllabus contains too many items. This makes the pupils burdened and bored. 3) Teachers and pupils are always forced to finish the syllabus especially during examination period. 4) Teaching and learning depends too much on textbooks. This will restrict the use of other teaching techniques and resources which are more interesting and effective (Abd Rahim b. Abd Rashid, 2005)
Particularly, on teachers’ side, there are several effects that happen in their education life which caused by this overload curriculum problem. For instance, time management, subject or topic itself, the teachers’ roles in teaching and school, teaching styles, teachers’ dilemma or emotion and lastly the effects for the future. Firstly, as stated before, the overload curriculum has caused some impact in teacher’s time management where the teachers are rushing for content coverage in order to finish the subject syllabus before the examination season started. It has, for example, altered the number of periods taught and has led to the introduction of cross-curricular areas. Consequently, the time consumed in a week is not enough for certain subjects and teachers need to make extra classes in the weekends or after school just to finish the syllabus. Because of the rush, teachers also need to teach the subject seriously, hence there is no time for the teacher and pupils to have fun in teaching and learning.
Furthermore, from my observations during practicum, internship and school based experiences, I found that overload curriculum has the effects on the subjects, topics or syllabus themselves. In addition, teachers always tend to neglect minor subject such as Physical Education, Living Skills, and Moral Education in order to focus more on the examination subjects such as the Malay language, English language, Science and Mathematics. These subjects are included in the centralized examination for the primary school known as the Primary School Achievement Test or UPSR. Because of this, education in school has become exam oriented learning where the minor subject’s classes have been neglected or sometimes replaced with the examination subjects.
Apart from that, the overloaded curriculum problem also gives some impacts on the teachers’ roles in teaching as well as in school. If you are a teacher, your importance to the curriculum-development process relates to more than an obligation to implement adopted decisions (Armstrong, D. G, 2003). I believe every teacher yearn to be an effective teacher in school and education where they aimed to achieve the objectives in teaching and learning of the curriculum. However, other than the responsibilities to teach and conduct the curriculum, teachers also have lots of other duties and disruptions in school. For instance, as stated by Abd Rahim b. Abd Rashid (2005) about teacher professionalism and school management, the teacher’s task, roles and development in school contexts are divided into two parts that is the curriculum and teaching management and non-academic management. As for the curriculum and teaching management, it involves teaching resources and materials, aims of school and education, academic (curriculum objectives) and innovation and creativity of teaching and as for the non academic management, it involves the co-curriculum activity, school and society, planning and administration and school leadership. On the other hand, the disruptions that teachers need to confront during in school are meeting, sports day, school events, holidays and seminars outside the school.
According to Magnusson, Krajcik, & Borko, (1999). Teaching is a complex activity that requires teachers to understand content and pedagogy as they come together to support students’ thinking and learning in the context of their classroom. In this case, the overload curriculum has also affected the teaching styles in teaching and learning. Lage, Platt and Treglia (2000) stated that, students will gain more knowledge, retain more information, and perform far better when teaching styles match learning styles. However, because of the time constraint, teachers are not able to apply interesting and effective teaching styles in the classroom. The teaching and learning session is focusing more on teacher-centred and involved less meaningful activities for the students. Teachers tend to teach more on theory and use traditional teaching styles approach where there is no or less contextual and practical learning involved among the students. A contextualized approach to instruction also stresses the social nature of real world activities (Wenger, 1998; Lave & Wenger, 1991). In some cases as Curzon (1985) points out, those who compile a syllabus tend to follow the traditional textbook approach of an 'order of contents', or a pattern prescribed by a 'logical' approach to the subject. To worsen the situation, some teachers only teaching just following the provided text books as stated before without applying other activities to enhance children’s understanding in learning the lesson. Hence, this will make the pupils’ learning become boring and most probably the learning objectives are not fully achieved by the pupils.
Furthermore, because of this overload curriculum problem, teachers actually faced their own dilemma and it is sometimes affected their emotion in carry out their duties. For instance, teacher will feel stressful because there is not enough time to cover the subjects and in some circumstances, there are not enough teachers in some school to deliver the curriculum to the pupils. As stated by Armstrong (2005) when you find yourself engaged in curriculum task, you and your associates will be forced to consider important context variables. For instance, a teacher needs to know the social setting within which the materials he or she is preparing will be taught. Furthermore, a teacher certainly wants to develop interesting materials that are appropriate to the age and sophistication levels of the learners who will use them. The variety of teaching sites, students, community expectations, parent and guardian priorities, and available support resources militate against that proposition (Armstrong, D. G, 2003). Teacher also must consider findings which are related to the learner’s cognitive and psychological development. As enactors of the curriculum, teachers interpret, modify, augment and chose selectively from any materials that are available to them (Ben Peretz, 1990). Nevertheless, due to rushing to finish the topic, teachers are not able to focus on their particular student’s needs, for instance, the difference of student individual level in learning where not all pupils in that particular classroom are able to achieve the curriculum goals and the learning objectives especially the pupils from the low level class. This is true as Armstrong (2003) says that curricular that are developed without the participation of thoughtful teachers often lack essential gravitas
As a result, this overload curriculum problem is also the causes why there are still many primary students are not able to master the basic 3R’s skills namely reading, writing and arithmetic. Teachers also will be in dilemma because they are only able to teach the children on the ‘surface’ and they are not able to ‘educate’ the pupils such as inculcating the values of the lesson. This dilemma phenomenon has shown that teachers are not able to fulfil the teaching philosophy which is designed to expand a creative, innovative and interesting teaching and learning concept. As explained by Abd Rahim b. Abd Rashid (2005) teaching and learning that had been implemented by the teacher will never be effective if the teacher did not understand the ‘teaching philosophy’ in order to construct the strength and understand the effects of learning in establish and develop a student’s potential and ability. Issues like teaching and learning styles, teaching objectives and aims are the principles that designed the teaching philosophy. As the consequence from this problem, the National Education Philosophy is not delivered perfectly and the aims of education are not achieved among the children. Sharifah (1999) explained that NPE is developed to “achieve the nation’s vision to prepare children to become knowledgeable, trained and skilled individuals to meet the growing needs of the millennium”. The National Education Philosophy has been the aims and the purpose of education in Malaysia that need to be achieved by the students, and it is the responsibility of the teachers to establish balanced human capitals harmony with the philosophy that had been created by the Ministry of Education.
Education in Malaysia is on-going efforts 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 harmonic, based on a 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 high level of personal well-being as well as being able to contribute to the harmony and betterment of the family, the society and the nation at large (Ministry of Education, 2002). However, due to the overloaded curriculum, the goals and aims could not be achieved. Consequently, it will produce the unbalanced generation and society whom does not have or learn the values from education and as a result, in the end teacher will be blamed, not just by the parents but also by the society. It sees what teacher do in the classroom as a kind of interactive dialogue, which leads to action based on their perceptions of curricular intent, your expectations of parents and guardians and the local community, and your views of your students’ needs (Henderson, 1992)
After all, teachers still need to catch up with the curriculum in the educational world as a professional. Moreover, a teacher must understand that the curriculum work is never done because curriculum and education are always moves and flows with the circulation of time. To avoid the calamitous results of school program built on out-dated information, it is essential for curriculum to be an ongoing activity (Armstrong, D. G, 2005). In order to overcome the effects of the overloaded curriculum problem that arise, it is significant for teachers to cooperate and unite among themselves to lighten the burden that they have to faced and decrease the stressful atmosphere which caused by this problem. As important as a teacher participation in curriculum development is, he cannot do this work alone (Armstrong, D. G, 2003). Teacher need to act together with others who bring special perspectives to bear. For example, some of these individuals have their own expertise in academic subject areas while others will be able to offer helpful comments about implementation issues that go beyond the individual classroom. Though teacher and their colleagues may feel they are simply implementing a curriculum that may have largely developed by others, in fact, they make many adaptations as you work with it each day (Ben Peretz, 1990).
Furthermore, teachers should be wise in playing with time because as we can see the major obstacle in the overload curriculum problem is the time constraint. To overcome the obstacle, teachers should make a proper plan in planning their lessons and activities in the classroom in order to teach the subject and deliver the curriculum. Curriculum work is directed at developing plans that define an arena of concern that can prompt teachers to make stimulating, interesting, and appropriate adaptations to their own settings (Armstrong, 2003) One of the steps in making a teaching plan is the long term planning. According to Stephens and Crawley (1994), the key to long term planning is to know what the students are expected to have covered during the year. Hence, teacher can make a well-planned scheme of work or yearly plan which include the lesson, activity and also considering possible interruption during in school such as school events, holidays, meetings, examinations and so on. Once teacher have identified the areas of their subject to be assessed, they will need to relate them in a meaningful way to the subject as a whole (Stephens and Crawley, 1994). Finally, as a responsible teacher, we need to adapt ourselves with the curriculum in order to help the children to receive the knowledge and at the same time to develop them to be a balance person spiritually, intellectually, physically and emotionally. According to Street (1999), the classroom, the teacher, the culture of the school and the broader community influence how people construct their definition of education and what it can do for them. A teacher must remember that if the effects of overload curriculum are difficult on them, then it is also tough on the children. Hence, it is a teacher’s role to implement the task wisely in order to overcome the overload curriculum problem and to help the children to develop their knowledge according to the designed curriculum. Education in this sense is the process by which these are transmitted or 'delivered' to students by the most effective methods that can be devised (Blenkin et al, 1992).
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