The basis for educational activities in an educational institution is the curriculum. This normative document presents the basic knowledge, skills, and abilities to be learned in academic subjects and disciplines. It includes a list of the topics to be studied, recommendations for the amount of time for each topic, their allocation by year of study, and the time allocated for the study of the course. The curriculum has two main functions: informational and methodological, and organizational and planning (Christianakis, 2018). The informational and methodological function allows all participants in the educational process to understand the goals, content, and general strategies for student learning and development through a given subject.
The organizational planning function provides for the allocation of stages of learning. It also includes the structuring of educational material, determining its quantitative and qualitative characteristics at each stage. All this is done for the content of the interim certification of students. The model program is a reference point for the development of authoring curricula and textbooks. It can be used in the thematic planning of a course, subject, discipline, or module. The curriculum defines the invariant part of the course, subject, discipline, beyond which there remains the author’s choice of the variable component of the content of education. This paper will consider and compare curricula for different levels of education.
General Structure of Modern Curriculum
Today, an educational program built in accordance with the idea of exploratory learning is increasingly being used for all levels of education. Such a program consists of three components and therefore includes three relatively independent subprograms. The first of these is training. These are special sessions for students to acquire specialized knowledge and to develop their research skills. The second subprogram can be described as a research practice. It implies that students conduct independent research and perform creative projects. The final, third subprogram is monitoring. It includes the content and organization of activities necessary to assess and manage the research learning tasks (Cuthbert, 2021). For instance, it can be mini-courses, lectures, research papers defense, and art workshops. Through such a curriculum, students must acquire specific knowledge, skills, and inquiry skills. These include knowledge and skills such as seeing problems, asking questions, hypothesizing, defining concepts, classifying, observing, experimenting, and drawing inferences and conclusions. In addition, students, regardless of grade level, should be able to structure material, write their reports, and explain, prove, and defend their ideas.
This learning material is programmed according to the concentric circles’ principle. Classes are grouped into relatively complete blocks, which are independent links in a common chain. Having completed the first circle in the second and third quarters of the first grade, it is expedient to return to similar classes in grades 2, 3, and 4. There is a need for these particular training sessions in elementary school, incomplete secondary school, high school, and even in institutions of higher learning (Fulco, 2017). The frequency of this work should be determined, focusing on the individual characteristics of students. Naturally, while preserving the general thrust of the tasks, they should become more complex from class to class. Moreover, many of the tasks used in these classes may be solved more than once by children of different ages. In these cases, the depth of problem-solving should be changed.
The core contents of the research practice subprogram are that students carry out their independent investigations and creative research. This subprogram serves as the main, central one. Lessons in it are designed so as to gradually increase the extent of a child’s autonomy in the exploration process. The monitoring subprogram is also of particular importance. It is important for the student to be aware that the findings of his investigations and artistic intent are of interesting to others, and he will surely be respected. The student also needs to master the practice of introducing the results of his studies, and to develop the ability to articulate his arguments.
Peculiarities of the Curriculum in the Elementary School
By the age of six, the child is basically ready for systematic schooling. He or she can already be talked about as a person since he or she is aware of himself or herself and his or her behavior and is capable of comparing himself or herself with others. By the end of the preschool period, new levels of social and psychological qualities are formed in him or her; the accumulation of life experience is intensive. The child strives for discoveries, begins to understand how much is unknown in adult life, which he or she gradually begins to learn. The fundamental prerequisite for purposeful learning activities is formed: the child has mastered speech and has learned to draw conclusions and simple generalizations (Mccormick & James, 2018). A junior high school student’s learning activity occurs mostly in the learning process. The expansion of the sphere of communication is of no minor importance. The fast-paced development and the many new qualities that need to form or develop in students dictate teachers’ strict focus on educational activities.
Younger students’ perceptions are marked by insecurity and disorganization, but also by sharpness and freshness, as well as reflective curiosity. Younger schoolchildren’s attention is involuntary, unstable, and limited in volume. That is why the entire primary school learning and educational system is committed to developing an attention culture. School life requires a child to exercise voluntary attention, volitional efforts to focus constantly (Priestley, 2018). For example, when a child has to sit practically motionless for a long time in class. Or when a child does not get enough sleep and has to come to school very early and still absorb the material. Voluntary attention develops together with other functions. Above all, with a motivation to learn, a sense of responsibility for success in learning activities. In elementary school, teachers use different forms of organization of perception of new knowledge: oral presentation of knowledge, supported by visibility, independent observations of students, the performance of exploratory tasks. Pupils assimilate perceived and conscious knowledge and skills. The result of this is the formation of concepts that reflect the pupil’s ideas about the essence of subjects, phenomena, and processes studied in the lesson or independently. These concepts are not always clear and correct, so their work continues at the following stages.
Developing the process of assimilation of new material, the formation of new knowledge and skills leads to the development of results in quantitative and qualitative terms. Judgments, concepts, knowledge is gradually formed (Starr, 2019). At the stage of primary fixation, further improvement of newly formed concepts and notions is carried out. Often the teacher is not limited to primary consolidation and organizes special exercises to strengthen the studied. Pupils learn to apply the obtained knowledge, skills, ways of action in relation to those already known to them. Without all of this, there can be no talk about the child’s development. Since thinking and memory are closely related to each other, there are various forms of repetition at every lesson. It prevents forgetting, helps relate the new material to the old, provides an opportunity to clarify, deepen, expand, organize learned. Active, engaging, relying on the child’s thinking, but not on mechanical memory, repetition is a powerful tool to consolidate what has been learned.
Stage of generalization of the studied assumes inclusion of the acquired knowledge, skills in the general system of concepts, and notions available to students. Different types of generalizations are used in the primary grades, but empirical and theoretical. Children isolate a common feature based on specific features during the first one, during which generalization is due to analytical and synthetic comprehension of the studied phenomena (Richmond, 2018). The system of progressively more complex types of generalization is used depending on the goal. Usually partial, then conceptual and inter-conceptual are formed first. The content of primary education forms the basis for the comprehensive development of students, the formation of their thinking, cognitive interests, and preparation for further education and future work activities. When forming the content for elementary school, one is guided not by the maximum of what a child can learn but by what it gives the child for further development. In primary school, education is aimed at the comprehensive development of children and the complete mastery of all components of learning activities.
Peculiarities of the Curriculum in the Middle School
In middle school, each subject has its teacher, and students get certain freedom to choose subjects. For instance, mandatory subjects remain math, English, science (physics, chemistry, biology, geology, astronomy – science), history, physical education, and creativity. Students choose one or two subjects of their choice. Most often, these are computer technology, cooking, a foreign language, or art. Also, there is an opportunity to choose a more challenging program in a subject in middle school. To do this, one needs to get an excellent grade in it in the previous year. From the 7th grade, the student can take an advanced level of mathematics and English. In the 8th grade – also natural and social sciences. The advanced classes have a more intensive program with challenging assignments and more information for independent study. For example, students get written tests in about every class. In addition, more interim testing, both oral and written, is added to the evaluation. In addition, a system of credits is introduced in high school. For the study of one subject for one year is given five credits, and for the disciplines that last for one semester – 2.5 credits (Richmond, 2018). These figures are then taken into account when applying to college.
Middle school course provides basic knowledge in the main areas of science. The transition to middle school complicates learning activities. As the number of school subjects increases, five or six new teachers begin to interact with the class, their teaching style, and requirements. The usual methods and forms of learning that the young pupils are accustomed to must be replaced by problem-based learning. Such teaching should teach adolescents to think, express their point of view, and develop independence and creativity in doing homework. Otherwise, the student will be bored and uninterested in attending lessons. By the time children move to middle school, several new factors are discovered. The first is a different level of the cognitive sphere – from high level to limited outlook (University of Bristol School of Education, 2020). The teenager’s attitude to learning – from positive and responsible to an indifferent or hostile and different volume and strength of knowledge at students is also revealed. Different ways of assimilation of material are also revealed – from the ability to work independently, find information, reflect, and the absence of flexible thinking and memorizing material word for word.
When organizing the educational process with adolescents, it is essential to consider that their peers’ opinion dramatically influences their behavior and activities. The primary stimulus is recognition among their classmates and friends. The need for self-assertion is exceptionally high, for the sake of this teenager is ready to do a lot to comply and have a high status among classmates (Kennedy et al., 2017). It is also necessary to excel in the school program to achieve positive results. The coincidence of evaluation and self-esteem affects the emotional well-being of the teenager. Losing authority in the eyes of peers is the most common tragedy of puberty. Because of emotional instability, a teenager may react violently to inaccurate remarks and see them as a humiliation of his or her personality. Teachers should not belittle students or make comments in public about their work. Teenagers appreciate tactfulness in teachers, the ability to explain the material clearly and organize the work in class at a pace that involves all students and makes it as productive as possible.
Teenagers are collectivistic and are attracted to working with their peers because the main incentive to go to school is to socialize with peers. Another vital element in learning in high school is the process of moral education. The essential feature of this education is the profound explanation of moral norms and rules and the formation of adolescents’ moral attitudes and beliefs. They are more eager to comply with the behavioral rules if they can understand them and serve as their moral principles. During the period of middle school, there is a significant restructuring of learning motivation.
With the proper organization of learning activities and the development of learning meanings, the pupil’s attitude to the content of lessons changes, and there is a reorientation from the result to the way of activity. The motives of learning become stable and independent of the situation (Green, 2017). The pubertal period is favorable for forming value orientations, stable interests, development of personal and professional self-determination. The correlation of motives and goals of learning activity allows the teenager to determine its true meaning. Correctly formed purposes will help the realization of actual and creation of new motives of educational activity.
From all of the above comes the fact that the educational program changes to a more complex and comprehensive one as the child grows up. In elementary school, children learn the basics of education, and in middle school, they acquire more specialized knowledge. Approaches to the methodology of presentation are also changing. In elementary school, teachers try to rely on vivid images and associations that are easy to remember. Children spend much time moving around and playing educational games. This is because in primary schools it is rather complicated to retain a child’s focus on any topic. In middle school, education becomes more theoretical than practical as students become more conscious and aware of what is going on. Thus, the educational program should not change entirely as the level of education increases but should become more detailed and comprehensive.
The theoretical statements on the role of systematic and activity-based solutions to educational challenges form the foundation for the elaboration of teaching programs. Also at the core are philosophical ideas about the essence of human development, psychological and pedagogical research in the field of designing educational activities. The theoretical foundations, on the basis of which we can consider the problem of designing educational programs, include general design theory and the modern paradigm of the education system as a service sphere (Fung, 2017). They also include the creation of situations of success and consideration of personal achievements, educational programs, and educational standards as a guarantee of the rights of the individual – the consumer of services and differentiation. The theoretical approach also includes the rationale for the choice of educational services.
Technology also plays an important role in designing the curriculum for both levels of education. Their use is equally helpful for junior and high school students, but the type of use is somewhat different. For elementary school students, technology is used more as a multimedia supplement to the lesson, such as visualizing the material for better comprehension. It can be a demonstration of films, cartoons, or audio content (Weilbacher, 2019). In middle school, technology can also be used to demonstrate audio-visual content. However, it will be very different, primarily due to a lack of playfulness and a large amount of information. The primary use of technology in middle school is to work independently with devices such as a computer or tablet as part of learning.
To summarize, the junior high and high school educational programs have many differences, chief among which are the focus of instruction and its methods. While elementary school is all about visual and tactile perception, middle school students absorb information through reading and memorization. In junior high school, a crucial part of the educational process is occupied by different variations of the game, again aimed at children’s perception. There is no play process in middle school, but the volume of information and the overall load increase. This is due to a change in the way adolescents perceive information, as well as their more conscious approach to learning. The methods of assessing learning are also different. In the lower grades, grading is not rigorous, and there are virtually no written assignments. In middle school, assessment occurs through systematic written testing.
These differences are legitimate because, at an older age, children can process large amounts of information and are able to structure their thought on paper. Technology also plays a significant role in children’s learning in high school and junior high school, but the methods of instruction are different. In the first case, they are used for students’ independent work and as a multimedia supplement to the lesson material. In the case of younger children, technology is used to provide multimedia content, which is one of the main tools for a child’s perception of information. Thus, the design of the educational program for the two levels of education discussed in this paper differs but does not represent two separate units but consistently complements each other.
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