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Difference between Syllabus and Curriculum ?

Curriculum and Syllabus

Curriculum is the complete set of taught material in a school system. It is prescriptive (as opposed to the ‘descriptive’ syllabus, which is the outline of topics covered. If the curriculum prescribes the objectives of the system, the syllabus describes the means to achieve them). Curriculum comes from a Latin word which means the course of a chariot race. However, curriculum has come to mean much more than a prescribed one track race and calls for a search for an understanding that gives meaning to education that is both functional and ethical Curriculum as a guiding document helps teachers in understanding standards that students need to achieve at the end of a developmental stage. The curriculum document will indicate “what” to teach, ”how” the curriculum is to be taught and help in checking “whether” the curriculum is taught as per the document.
Over the years, ‘curriculum’ has meant different things to different educationists. Some simply equate curriculum to the syllabus that is to be transmitted in the class. “A syllabus gives a more focused outline for particular subjects. It can’t be equated, because a curriculum is for a course but a syllabus is for a subject,” says Dr. Yasmin Jayathritha. The curriculum is the superset and syllabus is the subset of curriculum.
The syllabus is the content, the list of topics/concepts to be taught, whereas the curriculum is a consideration of the objectives, the content, methods chosen to achieve those objectives. It could/should contain a consideration of the kind of assessment one will use to check progress. “Curriculum is developed keeping in mind the standards students should achieve from well- researched best practices. Curriculum is designed so that the teaching and testing are aligned with the standards set for each developmental stage,” adds Vimala Nandakumar. Some see it as an end-product, which is to be achieved through a prescribed plan with pre-set objectives. For others, it is the interaction between ‘knowledge’, students and teachers. A curriculum can be a teacher’s friend or an enemy depending on how the teacher plans to use it. “The curriculum can be a straight-jacket or a crutch or a spring-board. For a teacher the curriculum stops being stifling if she understands what it is meant to achieve. But most use it, often badly, as a crutch because they make no effort to engage with it or understand what it hopes to achieve. Once a teacher understands that, she can use it or work around it to achieve the same ends,” says Dr. Gurveen Kaur.