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Old Saturday, March 09, 2013
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Default Philosophical & Psychological Foundations of Curriculum

PHILOSOPHICAL FOUNDATIONS:
Based upon fundamental beliefs that arise from one's philosophy of Education, curricular decisions involve consideration of several topics and issues. Precisely for this reason, we consider philosophy one of the major foundation areas in curriculum. In this section, we shall explore several different philosophies of education that influence curricular decisions.
Philosophy and Curriculum
Studying philosophy helps us deal with our own personal systems of beliefs and values, i.e., the way we perceive the world around us and how we define what is important to us. As philosophical issues have always influenced society and institutions of learning, a study of the philosophy of education in terms of Curriculum development is essential.
In essence, a philosophy of education influences, and to a large extent determines, our educational decisions and alternatives. Those who are responsible for curricular decisions, therefore, should be clear about what they believe. If we are unclear or confused about our own beliefs, then our curricular plans are bound to be unclear and confusing. One important step in developing a personal philosophy of education is to understand the various alternatives that others have developed over the years. Here we shall look into the following four major philosophical positions that have, hitherto, influenced curriculum development.
i ) Idealism
ii) Realism
iii) Pragmatism
iv) Existentialism

i ) Idealism
The doctrine of idealism suggests that matter is an illusion and that reality is that which exists mentally. It emphasizes moral and spiritual reality as the chief explanation of the world and considers moral values absolute, timeless and universal.
If we apply this view to education what would be the implications for the role of teachers and curriculum in education?
Obviously, teachers would act as role models of enduring values. And the school must be highly structured and ought to advocate only those ideas that demonstrate enduring values. The materials used for instructions, therefore, would centre on broad ideas particularly those contained in great works of literature and/or scriptures. Since it is based on broad ideas and concepts, idealism is not in line with the beliefs of those who equate learning with acquisition of specific facts from various Proponents of realism view the world in terms of objects and matter. They believe that human behavior is rational when it conforms to the laws of nature and is governed by social laws. Applied to education, those ideas begin to reveal a second possible philosophy of education.
ii) Realism
What kind of philosophy will that be? 'Realists' consider Education a matter of reality rather than speculation. Application, The paramount responsibility of the teacher, then, is to impart to learners the knowledge about the world they live in. What scholars of various disciplines have discovered about the world constitutes this knowledge. However, like the idealists, the realists too stress that education should reflect permanent and enduring values that have been handed down through generations, but only to the extent that they do not interfere with the study of particular disciplines. Clearly, unlike the idealists who consider classics ideal subject matter for studies, the realists view the subject expert as the source and authority for determining the curriculum.
iii) Pragmatism
In contrast to the traditional philosophies, i.e., idealism and realism, Pragmatism gives importance to change, processes and relativity, as it suggests that the value of an idea lies in its actual consequences. The actual consequences are related to those aims that focus on practical aspects in teaching and learning (Nash, 1995).
According to pragmatists, learning occurs as the person engages in transacting with the environment. Basic to this interaction is the nature of change. In this sense, whatever values and ideas are upheld currently would be considered tentative since further social development must refine or change them. For instance, at a particular period of time it was generally believed that the earth was flat which was subsequently disproved through scientific research.
To consider, therefore, what is changeless (idealism) and inherited the perceived universe (rea1ism) and to discard social and/or perceptual change is detrimental to the overall development and growth of children. You can now visualize how pragmatism would have influenced the framing of curriculum.
Curriculum, according to the pragmatists, should be so planned that it teaches the learner how to think critically rather than what to think. Teaching should, therefore, be more exploratory in nature than explanatory. And, learning takes place in an active way as learners solve problems which help them widen the horizons of their knowledge and reconstruct their experiences in consonance with the changing world. What then might be the role of the teacher? The role is not simply to disseminate information but to construct situations that involve both direct experience with the world of the learner and opportunities to understand these experiences.
Having seen three basic philosophical positions that have influenced curriculum development, let us now look at the fourth one.
iv) Existentialism
This doctrine emphasizes that there are no values outside human beings, and thus, suggests that human beings should have the freedom to make choices and then be responsible for the consequences of those choices.
According to this philosophy, learners should be put into a number of choice-making situations, i.e., learners should be given freedom to choose what to study. It emphasizes that education must centre on the perceptions and feelings of the individual in order to facilitate understanding of personal reactions or responses to life situations. Of primary concern in this process is the individual. Since life is based upon personal meanings, the nature of education, the existentialists would argue, should be largely determined by the learner. Individual learners should not be forced into pre-determined programmes of study. Whatever the learner feels he/she must learn should be respected and facilitated by the system. An existentialist curriculum, therefore, would consist of experiences and subjects that lend themselves to philosophical dialogue and acts of making choices, stressing self-expressive activities and media that illustrate emotions and insights. The teacher, then, takes on a non-directive role. The tender is viewed as a partner in the process of learning. As a professional, the teacher serves as a resource facilitating the individual's search for personal meaning rather than imposing some predetermined values or interests on learners.
Existentialism has gained greater popularity in recent years. Today, many educationists talk about focusing on the individual, promoting diversity in the curriculum and emphasizing the personal needs and interests of learners. Here, perhaps, we can recall the philosophy that underlies the open distance education system. Learner-autonomy, which the existentialists seem to suggest, has been and remains the prime characteristic feature of the distance mode of teaching-learning. Because of the explosion in knowledge and tremendous growth in information technology, the curriculum of the past seems to be obsolete.
To plug the gap between the needs of the learner, the society and the curriculum content, rethinking in the area of curriculum development appears to be unavoidable. What might have been relevant in a particular situation need not necessarily always be so. In essence, social changes demand changes in the existing pattern of education. The inherent potentiality of the system of distance education enables it to accommodate and cater to these changes. It should be clear from the above discussion that by and large, in operational terms, both pragmatism and existentialism find ample expression in open distance education.
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Each of the four major philosophies just described begins with a particular view of human nature and of values and truths, and then proceeds to suggest what such a view implies for curriculum development. Before we conclude our discussion on the philosophical foundations of curriculum, we should make note of a few educational philosophies in order to reinforce what has been said so far.

Educational philosophies:
Although aspects of educational philosophy can be derived from the roots of idealism, realism, pragmatism and existentialism, a common approach is to provide a pattern of educational philosophies which derives from the major schools of philosophy some of which have been touched upon above. Here, we shall be looking into the following four educational philosophies for their implications in the area of curriculum development.
i) Perennialism
ii) Progressivism
iii) Essentialism, and
iv) Reconstructionism
Let us discuss each one of these in this very order.
i) Perennialism
It advocates the permanency of knowledge that has stood the test of time and values that have moral and spiritual bases. The underlying idea is that education is constant, absolute and universal. Obviously, "perennialism" in education is born of "idealism" in general philosophy.
The curriculum of the perennialist is subject-centered. It draws heavily on defined disciplines or logically organised bodies of content, but it emphasizes teaching leaming of languages, literature, sciences and arts. The teacher is viewed as an authority in a particular discipline and teaching is considered an art of imparting inforrnation knowledge and stimulating discussion. In such a scheme of things, students are regarded immature as they lack the judgement required to determine what should be studied, and also that their interests demand little attention as far as curriculum development is concerned.
There is usually only one common curriculum for all students with little room for elective subjects. According to this point of view putting some students through an academic curriculum and others through a vocational curriculum is to deny the latter genuine equality of educational opportunity. Such views appeal to those educators who stress intellectual meritocracy. Their emphasis is on testing students, enforcing tougher academic standards/programmes, and on identifying and encouraging talented students.
ii) Progressivism
This emerged as a protest against perennialist thinking in education. It was considered a contemporary reformist movement in educational, social and political affairs during the 1920's and 30's. According to progressivist thought, the skills and tools of learning include problem solving methods and scientific inquiry. In addition, learning experiences should include cooperative behaviour and self- discipline, both of which are important for democratic living. The curriculum, thus, was interdisciplinary in nature and the teacher was seen as a guide for students in their problem-solving and scientific projects.
Although the progressive movement in education encompassed many different theories and practices, it was united in its opposition to the following traditional attributes and practices: the authoritarian teacher; excessive dependence on textbook methods; memorization of factual data and learning by excessive drilling; static aims and materials that reject the notion of a changing world; and attempts to isolate education from individual experiences and social reality.
Although the major thrust of progressive education waned in the 1950's with the advent of "essentialism", the philosophy has left its imprint on education and educational practices of today. Contemporary progressivism is expressed in several movements including those for a socially relevant curriculum, i.e., a match between subjects taught and student needs which is one of the theoretical bases of distance education.
iii) Essentialism
This philosophy, rooted partly in idealism and partly in realism, evolved mainly as a critique of progressive thought in education. Yet, the proponents of essentialism do not totally reject progressive methods as they do believe that education should prepare the learner to adjust to a changing society. Thus, in essentialism learning should consist in mastering the subject matter that reflects currently available knowledge in various disciplines. Teachers play a highly directive role by disseminating information to students. According to this viewpoint, the main arms of the institution (be it a school or a college) get sidetracked, when, at the expense of cognitive needs, it attempts to pay greater attention to the social and psychological problems of students.
In recent years, the essentialist position has been stated vociferously by critics who claim that educational standards softened during the 1960s and early 1970s. The most notable achievements of the essentialists have been the widespread implementation of competency based programmes, the establishment of grade-level achievement standards, and the movement to reemphasize academic subjects in schools/colleges. In many ways, the ideas of essentialism lie behind attacks on the quality of education by the media and by local pressure groups, which includes, to a good extent, attaces on distance education.
iv) Reconstructionism
It views education as a means of reconstructing society. The reconstructionists believe that as school/college is attended by virtually all youth, it must be used as a means to shape the attitudes and values of each generation. As a result, when the youth become adults they will share certain common values, and thus the society will have reshaped itself.
As for the curriculum, it must promote new social, economic and political education. The subject matter is to be used as a vehicle for studying social problems which must serve as the focus of the curriculum. The following gives you a view of the reconstructionist programme of education: critical examination of the cultural heritage of a society as well as the entire civilization; scrutiny of controversial issues; commitment to bring about social and constructive change; cultivation of a planning-in-advance attitude that considers the realities of the world we live in; and enhancement of cultural renewal and internationalism.
Stemming from this view, reconstruction expands the field of curriculum to include intuitive, personal, mystical, linguistic, political and social systems of theorizing. In general, the curriculum advocated by reconstructionists emphasizes the social sciences-history, political science, economics, sociology, psychology and philosophy-and not the pure sciences. The thrust is on developing individual self-realization and freedom through cognitive and intellectual activities, and thus, on liberating people from the restrictions, limitations and controls of society. The idea is that we have had enough of discipline-based education and narrow specialization, and that we don't need more specialists now, we need more "good" people if we want to survive.
Before we proceed further, let us ask ourselves a question. What insights do we gain from the discussion on the philosophical foundations of curriculum'? Foundations of Curriculum Ideas about curriculum and teaching do not arise in a vacuum. As curriculum development is heavily influenced by philosophy, those involved in such planning should be clear about contemporary, dominant philosophy.
If we are unclear about our philosophy of education,our curriculum plans and teaching procedures will tend to be inconsistent and confused. This being so, we should be aware of the fact that development and awareness of a personal philosophy of education is a crucial professional responsibility. Further, we need to be constantly open to new ideas and insights that may lead to a revision or refinement of our philosophies. Our position should be that no single philosophy, old or new, should serve as the exclusive guide for making decisions about curriculum. What we, as curriculum specialists, need to do, is to adopt an eclectic approach, in which there is no emphasis on the extremes of subject matter or socio-psychological development, excellence or quality. In essence, what we need is a prudent philosophy-one that is politically and economically feasible and that serves the needs of students and society. It is here that open distance education comes forth with its promises for the future.




PSYCHOLOGICAL FOUNDATIONS
By providing a basis for understanding the teaching/learning process, educational psychology deals with how people learn. By implication, it emphasizes the need to recognize diversity among learners. However, it is also true that people share certain common characteristics. Among these are basic psychological needs which are necessary for individuals to lead a full and happy life. In this section, we shall be talking about the major learning theories and their contribution to curriculum development. Besides, we shall touch upon the basic psychological needs of individuals and reflect on their translation into curriculum.
We shall at this juncture remind ourselves that our main thrust will be on the contributions made by the theories of learning for curriculum development. Let us therefore make it clear that we are not, right now, interested in studying the theories of learning in detail, which has already been done to some extent in earlier courses on distance education.
Learning theories and curriculum
For the sake of convenience we have classified the major theories of learning into the following groups:
i) Behaviorist theories which deal with various aspects of stimulus- response and reinforcement scheme;
ii) Cognitive theories which view the learner in relationship with the total environment; and
iii) Phenomenology which emphasizes the affective domain of learning.
Let us take up each of them in the given order and examine its contribution to curriculum development.
i) Behaviorism and curriculum
The behaviorist school, which represents traditional psychology, is rooted in a corresponding philosophical speculation about the nature of learning. It has particularly dominated psychology in the first half of the twentieth century. After a few decades of being in the wilderness lt has recently gained currency once again with the advent of individualized education.
Without going into the details we shall touch upon the main, characteristic features of the behaviorist school of thought.
Essentially, learning is considered a habit-formation and teaching is regarded as arranging learning experiences in such a way as to promote desirable behavior. Further, behaviorism maintains that what is learnt in one situation can be transferred to other situations as well.
Broadly, behaviorists advocate that: behavior is likely to be influenced by the conditions under which learning takes place; attitudes to and abilities of learning can change or improve over time through the application of proper stimuli; learning experiences can be designed and controlled to create desired learning; selective reinforcement is essential; and rote learning and memorization of knowledge are unnecessary.
Having thus touched upon the crux of behaviorism, we shall now turn our attention to its contribution to curriculum development. It provides the following significant guidelines.
A curriculum, according to behaviorists, should be based on the following concerns:
i) Remedial measures, acquisition of skills, considerations of basic or advanced learning;
ii) Well-defined, short-term and long-term objectives;
iii) Appropriate instructional materials and media to suit the learner's abilities;
iv) Shaping behavior through prescribed tasks, phase by phase activities, close supervision of activities and positive reinforcement; and The Field of Curriculum
V) Diagnosing, assessing and reassessing the learners’ needs, objectives, activities, tasks and instruction with a view to improving the curriculum.
We can observe manifestations of these guidelines in the theories, principles or trends related to: individualized education (and to some extent, open system of education); instructional design and systems; teacher-training techniques such as simulation teaching, microteaching, competency-performance based teacher education; educational technology including programmed instruction (which provides, with modifications, a base for self- instructional materials in use in the distance mode of teaching/learning).
ii) Cognitivism and curriculum
Today most psychologists explain the phenomenon of human growth and development in cognitive, social, psychological and physical terms. They also note that learning is primarily cognitive in nature. Growth and development refer to changes in the structure and function of human characteristics. Most cognitivists believe that growth and development occur in progressive stages. One example is Piaget's (Piaget, 1950) description of cognitive development in terms of stages from birth to maturity. Most curriculum specialists tend to show greater adherence to cognitivism than to behaviorism. This might be because the cognitive approach leads to logical methods for organizing and interpreting learning; and the cognitive approach is rooted in the tradition of teaching based on subject matter.
Even contemporary behaviorists incorporate cognitive processes in their theories of learning. Because learning in schools/colleges emphasizes the cognitive domain, it follows that most educationists feel that learning is synonymous with cognitive development. As a corollary, a problem solving approach in teachingllearning gains currency.
But, if we take an actual teaching/learning situation into consideration we tend to realize that this learning model is incomplete and that something is lost in its processes of actual transfer in the classroom. In reality, the teaching/learning process boils down to the teacher talking predominantly and students mostly responding to what is said by the teacher.
What should be of concern to the curriculum specialists?
They should be aware of the fact that a school/college should be a place where students are not afraid of asking questions, making mistakes, taking cognitive risks and playing with ideas. Further colleges/schools should be more humane places where students can explore and fulfill their human potentials. Obviously, curriculum has to play a vital role to actually realize this objective.
iii) Phenomenology and curriculum
Phenomenologist point out that the way we look at ourselves is crucial for understanding our behavior and that we respond to an organization or pattern of stimuli and not to an isolated stimulus.
It emphasizes that learning must be explained in terms of the "wholeness" of the problem. Here you can draw a parallel with cognitivism. But what differentiates phenomenology from cognitivism is that the former stresses the affective and the latter the cognitive aspects of learning.
Because each individual has specific needs and interests related to his or her self-fulfillment and self-realisations, there can't be a generally prescribed humanistic curriculum. Humanistic learning may enhance the mental health of the learners, harmonize personal feelings among students and teachers, and improve various aspects of human awareness among students, teachers, and curriculum specialists, yet its processes rely mainly on personal experiences and subjective interpretations that leave them open to criticism. Therefore, there is a great need to examine and understand what is relevant in humanistic curricula.
Please note that most textbook writers tend to be cognition-oriented. However, one should propose that behaviourist components are needed for planning and developing a sound curriculum. Further, humanistic components of teaching and learning must also be incorporated into the curriculum. Let us say, therefore, that each theory of learning has something significant to contribute towards explaining various aspects of human behavior and learning.
Basic human needs and curriculum
Physical well-being and health are generally recognized and frequently dealt with through various programmes such as those on fitness, nutrition and health problems. Mental health needs such as those pertaining to acceptance, belonging, security and status have been widely studied but little emphasized in the area of curriculum.
In this sub-section, we shall touch upon just two points which concern the topic under consideration:
i) Self-actualization; and
ii) Developmental tasks.
Here, we shall discuss these and draw inferences as to how each one contributes to the enrichment of a curriculum.
i Self-actualization
The notion of self-actualization characterizes individuals’ need for self- fulfillment in life by actualizing/achieving their own potential. A curriculum should therefore provide learning activities that allow students to identify themselves with those things they can do well. It should also assist them to succeed in other activities that are difficult for them. Learners are thus helped to find personal meaning in the learning experience.
Those responsible for curriculum development must pay attention to the concept of self-actualization. We all recognize the importance of school/college and community based goals for learners. Self- actualization on the other hand includes satisfying the desire to know and understand in relation to personal needs and interest. Moreover it has been noticed that when personal purposes are ignored, learners seem to be less successful in meeting the set goals. If curricular plans reflect a balance between institutional and personal needs, the impact on both may be substantially enhanced.
ii) Developmental tasks
We can define a developmental task as a task which arises in relation to a certain period in the life of an individual, success in which leads to his/her happiness and to success in later tasks, while failure in it leads to unhappiness in the individual and difficulties in subsequent tasks. This fact is regarded as one of the most specific considerations in organizing tasks. The needs of individuals are governed by the stage of development and age they have reached, and also grow out of their need to respond to societal expectations. The implication is that educators/curriculum planners should understand behaviors manifested by a learner indicating her/his readiness and need to deal with a particular developmental task.
As we facilitate the learners' success in these need tasks, their overall success can be ensured.
Further, in developing a curriculum, the development of an environment in which learners feel genuinely secure should be ensured. When a curriculum develops such an environment, learning takes place smoothly because the needs of students and what has been provided by the curriculum are complementary to each other.
In our discussion of the psychological foundations, we dealt with the contribution made by learning theories towards curriculum and also tried to see how much more effective a curriculum may be framed if we consider the nature of basic human need while forming it.
TRENDS IN CURRICULUM DEVELOPMENT
To understand contemporary curricular problems and proposals, it is ideal that we acquaint ourselves with the history of curricular thought and practice that stretches back to antiquity. However, let us start this section with the assumption that we rarely find histories that focus exclusively on curriculum and, therefore, turn to an overview of general histories of education in an effort to get a few glimpses of the history of curriculum.
The curriculum field may be viewed as a formal area of academic inquiry, but as a basic human interest, its concerns are perennial. Parents and other members of society throughout history have wondered how best to help their young ones grow and mature. Their response to this problem constitutes an unwritten history of informal curricular thought and action. As societies became more formal and as institutions developed within them to meet specialized needs, schools/colleges evolved to help students grow more efficiently, to introduce them to the ways of their society and to help them acquire an understanding of their cultural heritage.
If we recall the earlier sections, curriculum has always been and continues to be influenced by educational philosophers, besides societal needs. In the ancient times, though a formal curriculum (of the shape it has obtained today) did not exist; young people were oriented towards meeting cultural and social demands. Depending on the influence of educational philosophies, however, curriculum-content for such orientations varied from one period to the other. Tracing the historical antecedents of curriculum may give us a framework of its gradual growth. However, for our immediate purposes we shall restrict ourselves to an overview of the twentieth century curriculum and a speculation of the possible future trends in curriculum development.
Twentieth century curriculum
Early 20th century curriculum affirmed the shift in emphasis from sectarian education to liberal education. Traditionally, curriculum was confined to religion-related orientations and classics. Gradually, more and more subjects were added to the curriculum. As the focus was on mental discipline, social needs, student interest or capabilities were given little emphasis. Further, during this period, compartmentalization and not interdisciplinary subject matter was considered the norm. There was an unwillingness to recognize the values of arts, music, physical and vocational education. This was based on the theory that these subjects had little mental or disciplinary value. If we pause for a moment here and think, we shall realize that even though we offer vocational, industrial and/or technical programmes now, there is a tendency to consider traditional academic programmes superior to them.
Gradually, demands were made for curricular changes. Industrial development led a growing number of educators to question changes, as well as the authenticity of the traditional curriculum and its emphasis on mental discipline. This shift was also influenced by the scientific movement in child psychology (which focused on the whole child and learning theories in the 1900’s).
The argument that classics had no greater disciplinary or mental value than other subjects eventually appeared and meant that mental discipline (which emphasized drill and memorization) was no longer considered conducive for the overall growth and development of children. In essence, societal changes and the emerging demands there from; the stress on psychology and science; and the concern for social and educational reform made evident the need for a new curriculum. Thus, the aims of education went hand in hand with the particular type of society involved: conversely, the society that evolved influenced the aims of education.
Thus, the early twentieth century was a period of educational reform characterized by the following:
i) Idea of mental discipline was replaced by utilitarian modes of thought and scientific inquiry.
ii) Curriculum tended not to be compartmentalized but to be interdisciplinary.
iii) Curriculum tended not to be static but dynamic-changing with the changes in society.
iv) Needs and interest of students came to be considered of primary importance. And now curriculum is viewed as a science with principles and methodology not just as content or subject matter.
Possible future trends
Keeping in view the prevalent political, economic and academic climate, it is not difficult for us to visualize (of course, only to a certain extent) future trends and the influence they may have on education, particularly on curriculum development. (However, we should also confess here that such a speculation is fraught with risks that normally go with it.)
Although in this Unit we have been underlining the fact that social changes will have a vital role in determining a curriculum. If the present day growth of information is any indication the information flow will increase rapidly in the future. Clearly, the increasing flow of information negates the traditional notion of content-mastery. Students, therefore, will need to acquire critical thinking, and problem solving abilities rather than static and/or absolute knowledge and skills of factual recall.
Further, in the 21st centuries, the need for change will accelerate. For example, it took us more than one century to shift from an agricultural society to an industrial one. But it took hardly two decades to shift from an industrial to an information society.
What are the implications of these observations?
Job patterns will constantly change dramatically and so workers will be moving frequently from one job to another. Accordingly, to keep them abreast with each task/job that they take up, we will need to give them periodic training. The speed of change we have been referring to suggests not only that fields will be dynamic, but also that new ones will emerge. By implication, education and orientation will, of necessity a lifelong process. In essence, unlike the past, we cannot consider our education complete just because we have attended schools/colleges or graduated from an educational institution. Nor will we be able to enter a job or profession and expect to remain in it for life without regular training.
Traditionally, organizations have followed hierarchical structuring with power and communication flowing in a pattern from top to bottom. Increasingly, however, centralized institutions are being replaced by smaller decentralized units. Much of the impetus for this change has come from the inability of hierarchical structures to effectively solve problems. Rigid and efficient organizations are no longer as efficacious as fluid and flexible ones in which experimentations and autonomy call thrives. Applied to education, this kind of decentralization gives recognition to an individual’s need for self-determination and ownership in the decision making processes.
What are the implications of the above discussion?
In the main, there will be radical changes in the socio-academic ecology of school/college environment. Barring a few, if any, schools/colleges have so far been functioning as bastions of autocracy with little importance given to students' needs and teachers' competence. Because of the changing societal needs and greater awareness of the need for purpose-oriented education, the needs of every individual in the school/college will have to be recognized. In other words, there will be a change in the treatment of students as a homogeneous entity. Rapid growth in information will result in the emergence, every now and then, of varied curricula for purposes of reeducation and retaining. The number of consumers will obviously be more than the programmes available. In such a situation, the mode of the teaching/learning process cannot be the one which is prevalent now, i.e., face-to-face. Obviously, a viable alternative mode is distance education.
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PHILOSOPHICAL FOUNDATIONS:
Based upon fundamental beliefs that arise from one's philosophy of Education, curricular decisions involve consideration of several topics and issues. Precisely for this reason, we consider philosophy one of the major foundation areas in curriculum. In this section, we shall explore several different philosophies of education that influence curricular decisions.
Philosophy and Curriculum
Studying philosophy helps us deal with our own personal systems of beliefs and values, i.e., the way we perceive the world around us and how we define what is important to us. As philosophical issues have always influenced society and institutions of learning, a study of the philosophy of education in terms of Curriculum development is essential.
In essence, a philosophy of education influences, and to a large extent determines, our educational decisions and alternatives. Those who are responsible for curricular decisions, therefore, should be clear about what they believe. If we are unclear or confused about our own beliefs, then our curricular plans are bound to be unclear and confusing. One important step in developing a personal philosophy of education is to understand the various alternatives that others have developed over the years. Here we shall look into the following four major philosophical positions that have, hitherto, influenced curriculum development.
i ) Idealism
ii) Realism
iii) Pragmatism
iv) Existentialism

i ) Idealism
The doctrine of idealism suggests that matter is an illusion and that reality is that which exists mentally. It emphasizes moral and spiritual reality as the chief explanation of the world and considers moral values absolute, timeless and universal.
If we apply this view to education what would be the implications for the role of teachers and curriculum in education?
Obviously, teachers would act as role models of enduring values. And the school must be highly structured and ought to advocate only those ideas that demonstrate enduring values. The materials used for instructions, therefore, would centre on broad ideas particularly those contained in great works of literature and/or scriptures. Since it is based on broad ideas and concepts, idealism is not in line with the beliefs of those who equate learning with acquisition of specific facts from various Proponents of realism view the world in terms of objects and matter. They believe that human behavior is rational when it conforms to the laws of nature and is governed by social laws. Applied to education, those ideas begin to reveal a second possible philosophy of education.
ii) Realism
What kind of philosophy will that be? 'Realists' consider Education a matter of reality rather than speculation. Application, The paramount responsibility of the teacher, then, is to impart to learners the knowledge about the world they live in. What scholars of various disciplines have discovered about the world constitutes this knowledge. However, like the idealists, the realists too stress that education should reflect permanent and enduring values that have been handed down through generations, but only to the extent that they do not interfere with the study of particular disciplines. Clearly, unlike the idealists who consider classics ideal subject matter for studies, the realists view the subject expert as the source and authority for determining the curriculum.
iii) Pragmatism
In contrast to the traditional philosophies, i.e., idealism and realism, Pragmatism gives importance to change, processes and relativity, as it suggests that the value of an idea lies in its actual consequences. The actual consequences are related to those aims that focus on practical aspects in teaching and learning (Nash, 1995).
According to pragmatists, learning occurs as the person engages in transacting with the environment. Basic to this interaction is the nature of change. In this sense, whatever values and ideas are upheld currently would be considered tentative since further social development must refine or change them. For instance, at a particular period of time it was generally believed that the earth was flat which was subsequently disproved through scientific research.
To consider, therefore, what is changeless (idealism) and inherited the perceived universe (rea1ism) and to discard social and/or perceptual change is detrimental to the overall development and growth of children. You can now visualize how pragmatism would have influenced the framing of curriculum.
Curriculum, according to the pragmatists, should be so planned that it teaches the learner how to think critically rather than what to think. Teaching should, therefore, be more exploratory in nature than explanatory. And, learning takes place in an active way as learners solve problems which help them widen the horizons of their knowledge and reconstruct their experiences in consonance with the changing world. What then might be the role of the teacher? The role is not simply to disseminate information but to construct situations that involve both direct experience with the world of the learner and opportunities to understand these experiences.
Having seen three basic philosophical positions that have influenced curriculum development, let us now look at the fourth one.
iv) Existentialism
This doctrine emphasizes that there are no values outside human beings, and thus, suggests that human beings should have the freedom to make choices and then be responsible for the consequences of those choices.
According to this philosophy, learners should be put into a number of choice-making situations, i.e., learners should be given freedom to choose what to study. It emphasizes that education must centre on the perceptions and feelings of the individual in order to facilitate understanding of personal reactions or responses to life situations. Of primary concern in this process is the individual. Since life is based upon personal meanings, the nature of education, the existentialists would argue, should be largely determined by the learner. Individual learners should not be forced into pre-determined programmes of study. Whatever the learner feels he/she must learn should be respected and facilitated by the system. An existentialist curriculum, therefore, would consist of experiences and subjects that lend themselves to philosophical dialogue and acts of making choices, stressing self-expressive activities and media that illustrate emotions and insights. The teacher, then, takes on a non-directive role. The tender is viewed as a partner in the process of learning. As a professional, the teacher serves as a resource facilitating the individual's search for personal meaning rather than imposing some predetermined values or interests on learners.
Existentialism has gained greater popularity in recent years. Today, many educationists talk about focusing on the individual, promoting diversity in the curriculum and emphasizing the personal needs and interests of learners. Here, perhaps, we can recall the philosophy that underlies the open distance education system. Learner-autonomy, which the existentialists seem to suggest, has been and remains the prime characteristic feature of the distance mode of teaching-learning. Because of the explosion in knowledge and tremendous growth in information technology, the curriculum of the past seems to be obsolete.
To plug the gap between the needs of the learner, the society and the curriculum content, rethinking in the area of curriculum development appears to be unavoidable. What might have been relevant in a particular situation need not necessarily always be so. In essence, social changes demand changes in the existing pattern of education. The inherent potentiality of the system of distance education enables it to accommodate and cater to these changes. It should be clear from the above discussion that by and large, in operational terms, both pragmatism and existentialism find ample expression in open distance education.
.
Each of the four major philosophies just described begins with a particular view of human nature and of values and truths, and then proceeds to suggest what such a view implies for curriculum development. Before we conclude our discussion on the philosophical foundations of curriculum, we should make note of a few educational philosophies in order to reinforce what has been said so far.

Educational philosophies:
Although aspects of educational philosophy can be derived from the roots of idealism, realism, pragmatism and existentialism, a common approach is to provide a pattern of educational philosophies which derives from the major schools of philosophy some of which have been touched upon above. Here, we shall be looking into the following four educational philosophies for their implications in the area of curriculum development.
i) Perennialism
ii) Progressivism
iii) Essentialism, and
iv) Reconstructionism
Let us discuss each one of these in this very order.
i) Perennialism
It advocates the permanency of knowledge that has stood the test of time and values that have moral and spiritual bases. The underlying idea is that education is constant, absolute and universal. Obviously, "perennialism" in education is born of "idealism" in general philosophy.
The curriculum of the perennialist is subject-centered. It draws heavily on defined disciplines or logically organised bodies of content, but it emphasizes teaching leaming of languages, literature, sciences and arts. The teacher is viewed as an authority in a particular discipline and teaching is considered an art of imparting inforrnation knowledge and stimulating discussion. In such a scheme of things, students are regarded immature as they lack the judgement required to determine what should be studied, and also that their interests demand little attention as far as curriculum development is concerned.
There is usually only one common curriculum for all students with little room for elective subjects. According to this point of view putting some students through an academic curriculum and others through a vocational curriculum is to deny the latter genuine equality of educational opportunity. Such views appeal to those educators who stress intellectual meritocracy. Their emphasis is on testing students, enforcing tougher academic standards/programmes, and on identifying and encouraging talented students.
ii) Progressivism
This emerged as a protest against perennialist thinking in education. It was considered a contemporary reformist movement in educational, social and political affairs during the 1920's and 30's. According to progressivist thought, the skills and tools of learning include problem solving methods and scientific inquiry. In addition, learning experiences should include cooperative behaviour and self- discipline, both of which are important for democratic living. The curriculum, thus, was interdisciplinary in nature and the teacher was seen as a guide for students in their problem-solving and scientific projects.
Although the progressive movement in education encompassed many different theories and practices, it was united in its opposition to the following traditional attributes and practices: the authoritarian teacher; excessive dependence on textbook methods; memorization of factual data and learning by excessive drilling; static aims and materials that reject the notion of a changing world; and attempts to isolate education from individual experiences and social reality.
Although the major thrust of progressive education waned in the 1950's with the advent of "essentialism", the philosophy has left its imprint on education and educational practices of today. Contemporary progressivism is expressed in several movements including those for a socially relevant curriculum, i.e., a match between subjects taught and student needs which is one of the theoretical bases of distance education.
iii) Essentialism
This philosophy, rooted partly in idealism and partly in realism, evolved mainly as a critique of progressive thought in education. Yet, the proponents of essentialism do not totally reject progressive methods as they do believe that education should prepare the learner to adjust to a changing society. Thus, in essentialism learning should consist in mastering the subject matter that reflects currently available knowledge in various disciplines. Teachers play a highly directive role by disseminating information to students. According to this viewpoint, the main arms of the institution (be it a school or a college) get sidetracked, when, at the expense of cognitive needs, it attempts to pay greater attention to the social and psychological problems of students.
In recent years, the essentialist position has been stated vociferously by critics who claim that educational standards softened during the 1960s and early 1970s. The most notable achievements of the essentialists have been the widespread implementation of competency based programmes, the establishment of grade-level achievement standards, and the movement to reemphasize academic subjects in schools/colleges. In many ways, the ideas of essentialism lie behind attacks on the quality of education by the media and by local pressure groups, which includes, to a good extent, attaces on distance education.
iv) Reconstructionism
It views education as a means of reconstructing society. The reconstructionists believe that as school/college is attended by virtually all youth, it must be used as a means to shape the attitudes and values of each generation. As a result, when the youth become adults they will share certain common values, and thus the society will have reshaped itself.
As for the curriculum, it must promote new social, economic and political education. The subject matter is to be used as a vehicle for studying social problems which must serve as the focus of the curriculum. The following gives you a view of the reconstructionist programme of education: critical examination of the cultural heritage of a society as well as the entire civilization; scrutiny of controversial issues; commitment to bring about social and constructive change; cultivation of a planning-in-advance attitude that considers the realities of the world we live in; and enhancement of cultural renewal and internationalism.
Stemming from this view, reconstruction expands the field of curriculum to include intuitive, personal, mystical, linguistic, political and social systems of theorizing. In general, the curriculum advocated by reconstructionists emphasizes the social sciences-history, political science, economics, sociology, psychology and philosophy-and not the pure sciences. The thrust is on developing individual self-realization and freedom through cognitive and intellectual activities, and thus, on liberating people from the restrictions, limitations and controls of society. The idea is that we have had enough of discipline-based education and narrow specialization, and that we don't need more specialists now, we need more "good" people if we want to survive.
Before we proceed further, let us ask ourselves a question. What insights do we gain from the discussion on the philosophical foundations of curriculum'? Foundations of Curriculum Ideas about curriculum and teaching do not arise in a vacuum. As curriculum development is heavily influenced by philosophy, those involved in such planning should be clear about contemporary, dominant philosophy.
If we are unclear about our philosophy of education,our curriculum plans and teaching procedures will tend to be inconsistent and confused. This being so, we should be aware of the fact that development and awareness of a personal philosophy of education is a crucial professional responsibility. Further, we need to be constantly open to new ideas and insights that may lead to a revision or refinement of our philosophies. Our position should be that no single philosophy, old or new, should serve as the exclusive guide for making decisions about curriculum. What we, as curriculum specialists, need to do, is to adopt an eclectic approach, in which there is no emphasis on the extremes of subject matter or socio-psychological development, excellence or quality. In essence, what we need is a prudent philosophy-one that is politically and economically feasible and that serves the needs of students and society. It is here that open distance education comes forth with its promises for the future.




PSYCHOLOGICAL FOUNDATIONS
By providing a basis for understanding the teaching/learning process, educational psychology deals with how people learn. By implication, it emphasizes the need to recognize diversity among learners. However, it is also true that people share certain common characteristics. Among these are basic psychological needs which are necessary for individuals to lead a full and happy life. In this section, we shall be talking about the major learning theories and their contribution to curriculum development. Besides, we shall touch upon the basic psychological needs of individuals and reflect on their translation into curriculum.
We shall at this juncture remind ourselves that our main thrust will be on the contributions made by the theories of learning for curriculum development. Let us therefore make it clear that we are not, right now, interested in studying the theories of learning in detail, which has already been done to some extent in earlier courses on distance education.
Learning theories and curriculum
For the sake of convenience we have classified the major theories of learning into the following groups:
i) Behaviorist theories which deal with various aspects of stimulus- response and reinforcement scheme;
ii) Cognitive theories which view the learner in relationship with the total environment; and
iii) Phenomenology which emphasizes the affective domain of learning.
Let us take up each of them in the given order and examine its contribution to curriculum development.
i) Behaviorism and curriculum
The behaviorist school, which represents traditional psychology, is rooted in a corresponding philosophical speculation about the nature of learning. It has particularly dominated psychology in the first half of the twentieth century. After a few decades of being in the wilderness lt has recently gained currency once again with the advent of individualized education.
Without going into the details we shall touch upon the main, characteristic features of the behaviorist school of thought.
Essentially, learning is considered a habit-formation and teaching is regarded as arranging learning experiences in such a way as to promote desirable behavior. Further, behaviorism maintains that what is learnt in one situation can be transferred to other situations as well.
Broadly, behaviorists advocate that: behavior is likely to be influenced by the conditions under which learning takes place; attitudes to and abilities of learning can change or improve over time through the application of proper stimuli; learning experiences can be designed and controlled to create desired learning; selective reinforcement is essential; and rote learning and memorization of knowledge are unnecessary.
Having thus touched upon the crux of behaviorism, we shall now turn our attention to its contribution to curriculum development. It provides the following significant guidelines.
A curriculum, according to behaviorists, should be based on the following concerns:
i) Remedial measures, acquisition of skills, considerations of basic or advanced learning;
ii) Well-defined, short-term and long-term objectives;
iii) Appropriate instructional materials and media to suit the learner's abilities;
iv) Shaping behavior through prescribed tasks, phase by phase activities, close supervision of activities and positive reinforcement; and The Field of Curriculum
V) Diagnosing, assessing and reassessing the learners’ needs, objectives, activities, tasks and instruction with a view to improving the curriculum.
We can observe manifestations of these guidelines in the theories, principles or trends related to: individualized education (and to some extent, open system of education); instructional design and systems; teacher-training techniques such as simulation teaching, microteaching, competency-performance based teacher education; educational technology including programmed instruction (which provides, with modifications, a base for self- instructional materials in use in the distance mode of teaching/learning).
ii) Cognitivism and curriculum
Today most psychologists explain the phenomenon of human growth and development in cognitive, social, psychological and physical terms. They also note that learning is primarily cognitive in nature. Growth and development refer to changes in the structure and function of human characteristics. Most cognitivists believe that growth and development occur in progressive stages. One example is Piaget's (Piaget, 1950) description of cognitive development in terms of stages from birth to maturity. Most curriculum specialists tend to show greater adherence to cognitivism than to behaviorism. This might be because the cognitive approach leads to logical methods for organizing and interpreting learning; and the cognitive approach is rooted in the tradition of teaching based on subject matter.
Even contemporary behaviorists incorporate cognitive processes in their theories of learning. Because learning in schools/colleges emphasizes the cognitive domain, it follows that most educationists feel that learning is synonymous with cognitive development. As a corollary, a problem solving approach in teachingllearning gains currency.
But, if we take an actual teaching/learning situation into consideration we tend to realize that this learning model is incomplete and that something is lost in its processes of actual transfer in the classroom. In reality, the teaching/learning process boils down to the teacher talking predominantly and students mostly responding to what is said by the teacher.
What should be of concern to the curriculum specialists?
They should be aware of the fact that a school/college should be a place where students are not afraid of asking questions, making mistakes, taking cognitive risks and playing with ideas. Further colleges/schools should be more humane places where students can explore and fulfill their human potentials. Obviously, curriculum has to play a vital role to actually realize this objective.
iii) Phenomenology and curriculum
Phenomenologist point out that the way we look at ourselves is crucial for understanding our behavior and that we respond to an organization or pattern of stimuli and not to an isolated stimulus.
It emphasizes that learning must be explained in terms of the "wholeness" of the problem. Here you can draw a parallel with cognitivism. But what differentiates phenomenology from cognitivism is that the former stresses the affective and the latter the cognitive aspects of learning.
Because each individual has specific needs and interests related to his or her self-fulfillment and self-realisations, there can't be a generally prescribed humanistic curriculum. Humanistic learning may enhance the mental health of the learners, harmonize personal feelings among students and teachers, and improve various aspects of human awareness among students, teachers, and curriculum specialists, yet its processes rely mainly on personal experiences and subjective interpretations that leave them open to criticism. Therefore, there is a great need to examine and understand what is relevant in humanistic curricula.
Please note that most textbook writers tend to be cognition-oriented. However, one should propose that behaviourist components are needed for planning and developing a sound curriculum. Further, humanistic components of teaching and learning must also be incorporated into the curriculum. Let us say, therefore, that each theory of learning has something significant to contribute towards explaining various aspects of human behavior and learning.
Basic human needs and curriculum
Physical well-being and health are generally recognized and frequently dealt with through various programmes such as those on fitness, nutrition and health problems. Mental health needs such as those pertaining to acceptance, belonging, security and status have been widely studied but little emphasized in the area of curriculum.
In this sub-section, we shall touch upon just two points which concern the topic under consideration:
i) Self-actualization; and
ii) Developmental tasks.
Here, we shall discuss these and draw inferences as to how each one contributes to the enrichment of a curriculum.
i Self-actualization
The notion of self-actualization characterizes individuals’ need for self- fulfillment in life by actualizing/achieving their own potential. A curriculum should therefore provide learning activities that allow students to identify themselves with those things they can do well. It should also assist them to succeed in other activities that are difficult for them. Learners are thus helped to find personal meaning in the learning experience.
Those responsible for curriculum development must pay attention to the concept of self-actualization. We all recognize the importance of school/college and community based goals for learners. Self- actualization on the other hand includes satisfying the desire to know and understand in relation to personal needs and interest. Moreover it has been noticed that when personal purposes are ignored, learners seem to be less successful in meeting the set goals. If curricular plans reflect a balance between institutional and personal needs, the impact on both may be substantially enhanced.
ii) Developmental tasks
We can define a developmental task as a task which arises in relation to a certain period in the life of an individual, success in which leads to his/her happiness and to success in later tasks, while failure in it leads to unhappiness in the individual and difficulties in subsequent tasks. This fact is regarded as one of the most specific considerations in organizing tasks. The needs of individuals are governed by the stage of development and age they have reached, and also grow out of their need to respond to societal expectations. The implication is that educators/curriculum planners should understand behaviors manifested by a learner indicating her/his readiness and need to deal with a particular developmental task.
As we facilitate the learners' success in these need tasks, their overall success can be ensured.
Further, in developing a curriculum, the development of an environment in which learners feel genuinely secure should be ensured. When a curriculum develops such an environment, learning takes place smoothly because the needs of students and what has been provided by the curriculum are complementary to each other.
In our discussion of the psychological foundations, we dealt with the contribution made by learning theories towards curriculum and also tried to see how much more effective a curriculum may be framed if we consider the nature of basic human need while forming it.
TRENDS IN CURRICULUM DEVELOPMENT
To understand contemporary curricular problems and proposals, it is ideal that we acquaint ourselves with the history of curricular thought and practice that stretches back to antiquity. However, let us start this section with the assumption that we rarely find histories that focus exclusively on curriculum and, therefore, turn to an overview of general histories of education in an effort to get a few glimpses of the history of curriculum.
The curriculum field may be viewed as a formal area of academic inquiry, but as a basic human interest, its concerns are perennial. Parents and other members of society throughout history have wondered how best to help their young ones grow and mature. Their response to this problem constitutes an unwritten history of informal curricular thought and action. As societies became more formal and as institutions developed within them to meet specialized needs, schools/colleges evolved to help students grow more efficiently, to introduce them to the ways of their society and to help them acquire an understanding of their cultural heritage.
If we recall the earlier sections, curriculum has always been and continues to be influenced by educational philosophers, besides societal needs. In the ancient times, though a formal curriculum (of the shape it has obtained today) did not exist; young people were oriented towards meeting cultural and social demands. Depending on the influence of educational philosophies, however, curriculum-content for such orientations varied from one period to the other. Tracing the historical antecedents of curriculum may give us a framework of its gradual growth. However, for our immediate purposes we shall restrict ourselves to an overview of the twentieth century curriculum and a speculation of the possible future trends in curriculum development.
Twentieth century curriculum
Early 20th century curriculum affirmed the shift in emphasis from sectarian education to liberal education. Traditionally, curriculum was confined to religion-related orientations and classics. Gradually, more and more subjects were added to the curriculum. As the focus was on mental discipline, social needs, student interest or capabilities were given little emphasis. Further, during this period, compartmentalization and not interdisciplinary subject matter was considered the norm. There was an unwillingness to recognize the values of arts, music, physical and vocational education. This was based on the theory that these subjects had little mental or disciplinary value. If we pause for a moment here and think, we shall realize that even though we offer vocational, industrial and/or technical programmes now, there is a tendency to consider traditional academic programmes superior to them.
Gradually, demands were made for curricular changes. Industrial development led a growing number of educators to question changes, as well as the authenticity of the traditional curriculum and its emphasis on mental discipline. This shift was also influenced by the scientific movement in child psychology (which focused on the whole child and learning theories in the 1900’s).
The argument that classics had no greater disciplinary or mental value than other subjects eventually appeared and meant that mental discipline (which emphasized drill and memorization) was no longer considered conducive for the overall growth and development of children. In essence, societal changes and the emerging demands there from; the stress on psychology and science; and the concern for social and educational reform made evident the need for a new curriculum. Thus, the aims of education went hand in hand with the particular type of society involved: conversely, the society that evolved influenced the aims of education.
Thus, the early twentieth century was a period of educational reform characterized by the following:
i) Idea of mental discipline was replaced by utilitarian modes of thought and scientific inquiry.
ii) Curriculum tended not to be compartmentalized but to be interdisciplinary.
iii) Curriculum tended not to be static but dynamic-changing with the changes in society.
iv) Needs and interest of students came to be considered of primary importance. And now curriculum is viewed as a science with principles and methodology not just as content or subject matter.
Possible future trends
Keeping in view the prevalent political, economic and academic climate, it is not difficult for us to visualize (of course, only to a certain extent) future trends and the influence they may have on education, particularly on curriculum development. (However, we should also confess here that such a speculation is fraught with risks that normally go with it.)
Although in this Unit we have been underlining the fact that social changes will have a vital role in determining a curriculum. If the present day growth of information is any indication the information flow will increase rapidly in the future. Clearly, the increasing flow of information negates the traditional notion of content-mastery. Students, therefore, will need to acquire critical thinking, and problem solving abilities rather than static and/or absolute knowledge and skills of factual recall.
Further, in the 21st centuries, the need for change will accelerate. For example, it took us more than one century to shift from an agricultural society to an industrial one. But it took hardly two decades to shift from an industrial to an information society.
What are the implications of these observations?
Job patterns will constantly change dramatically and so workers will be moving frequently from one job to another. Accordingly, to keep them abreast with each task/job that they take up, we will need to give them periodic training. The speed of change we have been referring to suggests not only that fields will be dynamic, but also that new ones will emerge. By implication, education and orientation will, of necessity a lifelong process. In essence, unlike the past, we cannot consider our education complete just because we have attended schools/colleges or graduated from an educational institution. Nor will we be able to enter a job or profession and expect to remain in it for life without regular training.
Traditionally, organizations have followed hierarchical structuring with power and communication flowing in a pattern from top to bottom. Increasingly, however, centralized institutions are being replaced by smaller decentralized units. Much of the impetus for this change has come from the inability of hierarchical structures to effectively solve problems. Rigid and efficient organizations are no longer as efficacious as fluid and flexible ones in which experimentations and autonomy call thrives. Applied to education, this kind of decentralization gives recognition to an individual’s need for self-determination and ownership in the decision making processes.
What are the implications of the above discussion?
In the main, there will be radical changes in the socio-academic ecology of school/college environment. Barring a few, if any, schools/colleges have so far been functioning as bastions of autocracy with little importance given to students' needs and teachers' competence. Because of the changing societal needs and greater awareness of the need for purpose-oriented education, the needs of every individual in the school/college will have to be recognized. In other words, there will be a change in the treatment of students as a homogeneous entity. Rapid growth in information will result in the emergence, every now and then, of varied curricula for purposes of reeducation and retaining. The number of consumers will obviously be more than the programmes available. In such a situation, the mode of the teaching/learning process cannot be the one which is prevalent now, i.e., face-to-face. Obviously, a viable alternative mode is distance education.


After going through all your posted material including your previous posts related to Purpose of Education.I am now psychologically comfortable about my Essay attempt CE-13 on "Meaning and Purpose of Education". The reason is simply because whatever you said or suggested is the reflection of my essay.I hope examiner will find my essay more rational than I expected.Either it is co-incidence or whatever,but eventually I feel myself as safe side in my Essay paper.Thank you once again for posting such informative material.
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