In education, a curriculum is a sequence of standards-based experiences that are planned whereby learners exercise and achieve proficiency in learning and content. A curriculum is a central guide for all teachers regarding what is crucial for learning and teaching. When planning for a curriculum, objectives, goals, and aims are examples of tools used in curriculum development (Forestier et al., 2017). The importance of these tools is providing a hierarchical system for all subjects and grade levels with goals and aims for particular units and finally for independent lessons. The primary aim is to package knowledge into a format that is easy to teach, ultimately benefiting learners.
Additionally, a knowledge-based curriculum ensures that each course or module has concise aims and outputs that students are required to achieve. Outside the classroom, a curriculum aims to provide confident individuals with the ability to live fulfilling, healthy, and safe lives (Wijngaards and Merx, 2018). Furthermore, curriculums provide successful learners who enjoy learning, thus making good educational progress and excellence. Lastly, through a curriculum, accountable citizens can make productive contributions to the community.
The England National Curriculum is one of the most broadly spread standards that schools all over the world chose as a program plan. It relies on a knowledge-based curriculum and encourages pupils to build deeper and target learning in the most important core subjects to achieve higher educational success (Lavin et al., 2017). However, moving towards the year 2022, it is expected that a new curriculum will be implemented for Wales which will focus on an aims-based curriculum. Additionally, Northern Ireland and Scotland have a curriculum that provides a more flexible approach and hands-on educational activities. Concerning an aims-based curriculum, children require literacy knowledge and skills to interact with their peers, participate in school activities; express and develop their ideas (Mpogole, 2020). Children also learn to understand, interpret and analyse information within the framework of an aims-based programme (Mpogole, 2020). Furthermore, teachers, regarding monitoring numeracy and literacy development in a knowledge-based curriculum, are expected to understand the position of their students at that time and where scholars are expected to step next academically. Literacy on the other hand is deciding on whether a provided instructional material is weak or strong. Making this decision results in good academic performance.
The international curriculum is implemented in private international schools that develop their schedule not based on the national standards. Moreover, the international school can insert the curriculum of the other country and can invite teachers from all over the world (Sinnema, Niveen and Priestley, 2020, p. 182). The international primary curriculum (IPC) is a programme that combines the international curriculum with academic and personal learning for students aged from 5 to 11 (Fieldwork Education, para. 1). It enables children to achieve required subject goals and individual goals for learning while preparing them for international and intercultural perspectives.
This paper presents a curriculum developed as a mixture of knowledge-based and international primary programmes and is ideal for student learning and development. Combining the National Curriculum of England and IPC can enhance children’s performance and lead them to new educational goals and outcomes. The attitude to literacy and numeracy in these programmes differs in assessment strategies. However, combining various evaluations might enhance students’ performance and memorising abilities.
Statutory and Non-Statutory Curricula
Currently, schools can implement statutory and non-statutory curricula depending on their local authority. All maintained schools in England must use the national curriculum, and they have various degrees of independence tied to their categories. Free schools and academies are unrestricted with developing their rules and schedule plans. In the framework of the National Curriculum of England, parents cannot withdraw their children from various subjects, except sex education before the student turns 16 years old (Roberts, 2021, p. 6). In Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland school curricula are different as the education sector is a decentralized policy area. In Scotland, due to the national specialties, two extra languages are required to learn: Gaelic and Scots (Scottish Government, para. 23). Being also official on the territory of Scotland, the country provides the protection and promotion of minor languages and national safekeeping. In Wales, each school develops its unique curriculum according to curriculum requirements (Welsh Government, 2021, para. 2).
IPC as a Part of International Curriculum
In contrast to a knowledge-based curriculum, an international curriculum is a school curriculum promoting international education. This curriculum either adopts the ‘Cambridge international learning or international primary curriculum’ (Green, 2019 pg. 179-180). Internationalization in schools is described as the process of teaching broad subjects and programmes to act as catalysts in developing emerging teachers (Hayden, 2020 pg. 589-602). Globally, more than nine thousand schools are using an international curriculum, which is a curriculum distinct from the one used in their host country.
IPC is a part of the international curriculum that Fieldwork Education introduced in 2000. IPC is used in ‘more than 1000 schools in over 90 countries’ (Fieldwork Education, para. 1). The programme includes three mileposts for kids aged 5-7, 7-9, and 9-11 accordingly and uses a learner-focused approach to learning goals. The three learning goals of IPC are ‘Subject, International, Personal’ (Fieldwork Education, para. 12). Subject goal covers the knowledge and skills children must learn, while the international goal aims to raise their global and intercultural awareness. The personal goal is to foster children’s personal qualities such as mindfulness, communication, collaboration, mutual respect, and tolerance. Moreover, an international-based curriculum like IPC encourages students to develop higher and orderly skills such as critical thinking and problem-solving. These qualities and skills are life-lasting since they are transferable to life after school, thus preparing each student for future life.
Flexibility and Choice for Students in IPC
Fieldwork Education monitors schools with IPC and sets an educational standard for integrating and using the curriculum to ensure that it is beneficial both for schools and students. To do that, Fieldwork Education supports teachers and schools, providing units of learning, assessing learning for possible improvement, and encouraging collaboration between teachers, schools, and learners worldwide. IPC promotes ‘rigorous learning’ and ‘high levels of children’s engagement’ (The Good Schools Guide, para. 4). As an international curriculum, IPC is inspiring, flexible, and challenging (Kumar, 2018). As a result, students of schools with IPC develop a lasting and informed passion for education. Children gain important skills to succeed in middle and later high schools and even higher education institutions.
The IPC units are created with the possibility to adapt them to children’s needs and interests. Therefore, they are simple and structured, aiming to develop children’s cognitive skills first and foremost (Fieldwork Education, para. 5). The teacher needs to assess the students’ actual skills and knowledge and differentiate them from the desired expertise to provide insightful and fruitful learning process. The units help teachers do this assessment and include most core subjects, while the main purpose is to stimulate pupils’ engagement and achieve learning goals through this engagement (The Good Schools Guide, para. 7, 12). Consequently, IPC can be integrated with the National Curriculum of England to improve learning creativity, combining statutory education and fun.
The flexibility of IPC means that pupils can work towards the international goal while still focusing on their national curriculum. The British Vietnamese International School is one such learning institution located in Hanoi, Vietnam. This school offers a curriculum based upon the English National Curriculum and IPC. The core subjects are English, Maths, and Science, but children follow modified IPC to heighten the efficacy of learning (British Vietnamese International School Hanoi, para. 1, 2). The school is bilingual and includes an array of other modules that are based on the combination of curricula. International learning from a young age gives students the necessary basis to get further education abroad and builds opportunities to be globally competent.
All educators want their pupils to emerge from school as creative and curious people who can examine the world surrounding them and contribute to society. This statement reveals that a knowledge-based curriculum is essential in producing creative and well-learned people who can thrive in the twenty-first century (Lian, 2020). In addition, this curriculum is an upright way of maintaining the interest and engagement of learners in learning. The knowledge-based curriculum must have a formal and strong foundation in customary subjects and must be carefully structured for learners to build on the knowledge they already have. The curriculum includes advancing from initial years to school, the intellectual science supporting knowledge, knowledge-based curriculum teaching and finally the main beneficiaries of the knowledge-based curriculum.
Advancing from Initial Years to School
The importance of a knowledge-based curriculum is usually not obvious since it goes against the experience of parents with pre-school youngsters. Before children attend school, parents are provided with simple guidelines (Schlichting et al., 2020). For the physical development, parents are instructed to provide their children with a safe exploring space. For language development, parents are told to use different vocabularies when talking to their children and allow them to speak back (Dore et al., 2021). In terms of social development, parents are encouraged to associate with their children and model a good character. However, these skills, learned at an early age, are substantially innate. When children are born, they are able to learn a language and form social and emotional connections (Troseth et al., 2020). Therefore, the most effective way of helping these children is by encouraging their discoveries and issuing them with reassurance.
However, even after providing reassurance to children, it takes hundreds of hours of repetition and patience before they can properly learn the language. As a result, adults and most parents do more teaching than they realize by adjusting their responses to the child for them to capture and comprehend as much as possible (Chen, 2021). On the other hand, a formal education needs a much more deliberate knowledge-based curriculum compared to early development due to two reasons. One, this curriculum is not innate, and its written language and alphabet are recent human inventions (Roehr-Brackin and Tellier, 2019). Therefore, language in a knowledge-based curriculum is a mathematical language. As a result, it is not expected for a child to learn about calculus, evolution, or gravity by talking to people they meet and wandering around. Instead, these ideas must be imparted to them repeatedly and over a vast period (Ebersole et al., 2018). Second, informal education, the subjects are mostly cumulative and rely on writing, reading, and numeracy. Without these three aspects, a child can’t learn the language since each subject requires an understanding of earlier subjects.
Intellectual Science Supporting Knowledge
In present years, advances to human brain understanding have proven the importance of knowledge-based curriculum for two purposes. One, knowledge frees up the thinking capacity of the brain. Intellectual scientists have revealed that the human brain functions at distinct speeds, depending on whether humans have already gotten new knowledge or rely on ‘working memory’ (Kamiński and Rutishauser, 2020). Working memory refers to new information that is kept in the brain. However, the major limitation of working memory is that a person can hold five to ten new information pieces, which can be very tiring. As a result, mathematics teaches students to avoid this brain-tiring situation by encouraging their pupils to learn the multiplication tables by heart.
Secondly, pupils get new knowledge by connecting it to old knowledge. The brain of young learners makes discoveries and inferences by relating to the stored knowledge that exists in their brain. Therefore, these children cannot acquire skills without knowing evaluating something they do not comprehend is impossible (Kieren, 2020 pg. 323-371). Additionally, coming up with new ideas is equally impossible without jumping off old ones. For example, if Newton had never come up with the discovery of gravity, Einstein would not have developed the relative theory (Spekkens, 2019). Einstein and Newton were some of the most creative people in global history, and creativity requires knowledge.
Knowledge-Based Curriculum Teaching
Ironically, while teachers often attempt to devise complex ways to interest students in the content by thinking it is too abstract or difficult, the content is fascinating. For example, children can get very excited after learning everything about football players or dinosaurs (Alt, 2018). In the same way, a good knowledge-based curriculum should inspire the exact excitement of learners. One great thing about a knowledge-based curriculum is that new ideas increase with every new fact learned. Various studies have revealed that ‘direct instruction’ is specifically effective in this type of curriculum (Stockard et al., 2018). Using direct instruction, a teacher teaches the students deliberately instead of leaving the answers upon the students. Additionally, direct instruction involves active dialogue between the students and their teacher through questions and answers. During this time, it is unlikely for the students to switch off, which ultimately boosts the standards of the school in general.
Beneficiaries of Knowledge-Based Curriculum
Various research has revealed that unprivileged pupils largely benefit from a knowledge-based curriculum since they are not exposed to new ideas and vocabularies compared to wealthier students. Due to this assertion, learning institutions should systematically impart knowledge to these disadvantaged pupils (Hsu and Hung, 2018). While this type of knowledge is mostly seen in reading, various research has proved that poor readers do better academically than good readers (Singer and Alexander, 2017). This revelation makes sense considering the aspect of cognitive neuroscience since a student can learn how to decode.
However, without knowing distinct vocabularies, the new lexical learned are rarely used. A knowledge-based curriculum is more effective in teaching lower-grade students. This type of schooling emphasizes early education concerning learning and teaching broad knowledge (Epstein, 2019). As a result of this enabling, a strong foundation for later education as well as opening doors to successful participation in the society is built. Additionally, through a knowledge-based curriculum, students can determine their academic progress, and in the process, they identify the gaps or weak areas they need to polish. With each topic taught in a knowledge-based, curriculum students acquire knowledge on diverse and specialized topic-related concepts.
Curricula of the Schedule Plan
Curricula that are aimed to be united in the framework of this schedule plan are knowledge-based and IPC. The standard national plan used by most English schools is attractive with its developed plan, vast programme, and sustainability (Roberts, 2021, p. 12). However, the international primary lesson plan is more flexible, changing, and opens innovative opportunities for children. As the result, students become more educated regarding international knowledge and global issues. Taking knowledge-based standard as a basement and adding in its techniques to develop transnational thinking will help enhance the performance of scholars.
The curriculum involves a six-week plan for students of the first year regarding animals. The basement of the programme is the knowledge-based type of curriculum; however, international elements were included. The major goal of the schedule is to make children learn the name and appearance of the animals, their place in nature, and their impact on human society. Interactive techniques help children entertain and memorise the information better. From the international perspective, the plan has various films from other countries, their animals, and the cult of animals in different spots of the world. For instance, children need to know that cows are sacred in India, and some animals are only inhabiting special areas (New Zealand, Australia, etc.). The developed scheme of work is presented below in Table 1.
Table 1. Scheme of work
|Topic/theme: Animals||Type of Curriculum: Knowledge-Based and IPC|
|Teacher:||Year group: 1||Dates: from-to |
3rd January 2021 – 11th February 2022
|Number of sessions: 6||Number of hours: 6|
|Week one||Reading a text about the animals||Learning animals’ place in a biological system||Discussion about the spread and rare animals||Watching a film from Africa||Ask children to create their favourite animals using play-doh|
|Week two||Roleplay: discuss animals that students encounter regularly||Watching a short video about animals’ circle||Visiting the farm and naming the animals||Show different pictures of animals and ask children where the animals live. Connect with the film on the previous week||Drawing the animal children liked from the farm the most|
|Week three||Asking children to write a description of the animal (using the resource)||Ask children to describe the life cycle of the chicken. Watch a movie about ancient animals||Give children a worksheet for the animals they met on the farm and match the sentences using the recourses||Sticking on the map figures of different animals depending on the places they inhabit||Ask children to create and name their animals using imagination|
|Week four||Roleplay: children choose their favourite animals and create a short story in small groups||Ask children to recognise the sounds of animals after listening to the audio recordings||Matching the pictures of animals and their help to humans in agriculture in previous times||Watching a video about the animal cult in different countries||Using colourful paper and glue, create the surroundings for an animal provided (grass, food, place of living)|
|Week five||Reading a fairy tale about goats||Watching a cartoon about milk production from animals||Roleplay: children discuss the rules of treating animals||Asking children to answer the questions about animals based on previous material||Ask children to draw an animal they would want to be|
|Week six||Testing children on naming animals by pictures||Inviting a veterinarian that interactively narrates about animals’ life duration||Give children a worksheet with pictures of milk production. Ask children to numerate pictures in order||Active game: divide children into three groups regarding the place of animal inhabitance: forest, water, or human house. Show children pictures of the animals. The students should raise their hands when they think the animal lives in the place they represent. The group that has made fewer mistakes, wins.||A master-class on making a bird from paper sheets|
The following lesson plan (Table 2) discloses one of the units from the schedule.
Table 2. Lesson plan
|Topic/theme: Animals. Drawing an animal from the farm.||British values: individual liberty, mutual respect, tolerance|
|Teacher:||Year group: 1||SEND/Behaviour:||Date: 9th February 2022|
|Session: 6||Number of hours: 1||Curriculum area: Art/DT|
|Date||Learning outcomes/objectives |
|Teacher activities||Group activities including differentiation||Assessment/Questioning||Resources||Links to ICT|
|09/02/2022|| || || ||The biggest number of right answers when naming an animal|| || |
With the insertion of IPC aspects to the schedule, children have a vaster perception of animals worldwide. Understanding various attitudes of people from different countries can help students develop reflective thinking, raise their interest in history and science, and broadcast their knowledge globally. Educating children from the international perspective is essential in the further performance of scholars and their development of social skills. Inserting facts from the history and languages of other countries can also better communication specialties of children with their peers from other states, simplify their foreign language learning, and impact the country’s future economy (Kishino and Takahashi, 2019, p. 13). Uniting the knowledge-based and international primary curricula is believed to be an innovative and perspective way to teach students, it gives schools more freedom, and students a more flexible and relaxed atmosphere of receiving knowledge.
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