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What are the Key Differences between the Official/Formal curriculum and the Hidden

Curriculum? Illustrate your answer with reference to education in two countries.


Perceiving and understanding the key differences between the Formal and the Hidden
Curriculum, will incorporate the concept of what constitutes as the Curriculum, and what
constitutes as knowledge within the curriculum. Both Zimbabwe and England have similar
educational curriculums, based upon the attainment of similar desirable knowledge. Since
Zimbabwe was a previous British colony, this desirable knowledge was a collection of
cultural beliefs which was engendered through the previous British colonial government, and,
duplicated as acceptable by the new Zimbabwean Government. The basis of knowledge, and
what is considered desirable knowledge will be outlined below. The importance of
understanding the concept of what is desirable knowledge within these two societies will
further outline the key differences between the Formal and Hidden curriculum.
Descartes (as cited in Bartlett and Burton, 2016, p.106) in his study of epistemology (the
theory of knowledge), professed that knowledge was linked to self consciousness, meaning
that the focus of knowing is on the individual. Since each individual is unique, different ways
of life and belief systems will inevitably produce different knowledge and different
orientations towards it. (Bartlett and Burton, 2016, p.107). Knowledge encompasses a
complex network of circumstances which incorporate our cultural identity, class structure,
gender and language differentiation, and our inherent formative experiences (for example our
preconceived biases and beliefs). This complexity led to educationalist Paul Hirst, positing
that the curriculum is the organisation of universal forms of knowledge, which is then
transmitted and acquired within educational frameworks. (Hirst, 1975. p. 4.). This
organisation of knowledge becomes separated into functionality, whereby Hirst notes that
certain forms of thought (subjects), intellectual abilities (problem solving) and particular
character traits (disciplined), are required objectives within education. These required
objectives are not a natural embodiment of society, but relate directly to Pierre Bourdieus
theory of habitus. Habitus refers to the way society becomes deposited in persons in the
form of lasting dispositions, or trained capacities and structured propensities to think, feel and
act in determinant ways, which then guide them (Navarro, 2006. p. 16). In this way, the
present knowledge which is being incorporated within the structure of the English and most
western influenced curriculum, is based on the preconceived importance of that knowledge
held by the current political, economic and social conditions within the country. Bartlett and
Burton (2016, p. 110) noted that the curriculum is also influenced by, what has been set as
knowledge by powerful groups within society, such as the upper class or elitist.
To be considered fully educated, Hirst (1975. p. 20) notes that the acquisition of knowledge
must lead to completing the objective of developing a rational mind. This development is
engendered by dividing knowledge into seven forms mathematics, physical sciences, human
sciences, history, religion, literature and the fine arts, philosophy and moral knowledge.
(Hirst 1975, as cited by Bartlett and Burton, 2016, p. 109.) These forms all work in mutual
tandem to complete the educational objective, and must be studied to become fully educated.
It is this view of knowledge which structures the present - day curriculum in schools.
(Bartlett and Burton, 2016. p. 106).
Since the objective of the curriculum is to impart the seven forms of knowledge, it must be
understood that knowledge itself cannot be totally fixed and static, it is in a constant flux
which is contingent and relative to the individual and their societal circumstances and
influences. The curriculum can then be further understood as a representation of the vision
of the society. (UNESCO, 2017.) With societal vision in mind, and the integration of the
seven forms of knowledge, together with the educational objective of acquiring a rational
mind, the curriculum can be broadly defined as consisting of, all those activities designed or
encouraged within its organizational framework to promote the intellectual, personal, social
and physical developments of its pupils. (DES, 1985, as cited by Bartlett and Burton (2016),
p. 104).
The fulfilment of these developments lead to the curriculum being categorized into three
accepted areas: The formal, The informal, and The Hidden. Although Howard (2017) outlined
eleven categorizations, most of those can become integrated into these three areas. These
areas should work in mutual balance with each other, not conflict, since the formal
curriculum cannot exist in an abstract space outside of societal influences. The Formal, also
known as Official or Written, is defined as being the planned programmes of objectives,
content, learning experiences, resources and assessment offered by a school. (UNESCO,
2010). The formal curriculum then becomes published by governmental bodies, incorporating
the objectives and relevant legislations. The informal curriculum is the actual curriculum
which is taught in the schools, which has been influenced by certain factors, such as: lack of
resources; teaching or learning impediments in regards to curriculum or syllabus content;
ineffective planning implementations; and incorrect or biased assessment procedures. The
informal curriculum is additionally referred to as co-curricular activities, which incorporates
learning experiences adopted from other agencies outside of the formal setting. The formal
setting being the schooling environment which could be class room based in some way, and
other agencies referring to parents, community (museums), and the media. The final
categorization to be explored is the hidden curriculum. Longstreet and Shane (1993), noted
that this term refers to the kinds of learnings children derive from the very nature and
organizational design of the public school, as well as from the behaviours and attitudes of
teachers and administrators (as cited by Howard. L, 2017). For the purposes of this
assignment, the focus will be on the key differences between the Formal and the Hidden
curriculum within Zimbabwe and England.
In relation to the above descriptions, it can then be deduced that the key differences between
the Formal and the Hidden curriculum are: the Hidden curriculum arises spontaneously from
interactions between the schooling environment and the student, whereas the formal
curriculum is a planned learning objective and experience, outlined by Governmental
legislation and syllabi content; the Hidden curriculum includes the organisation of the
schooling environment in regards to sequential room arrangements; the cellular, timed
segments of formal instruction; an annual schedule that is still arranged to accommodate an
agrarian age; disciplined messages where concentration equates to student behaviours where
they are sitting up straight and are continually quiet; students getting in and standing in line
silently; students quietly raising their hands to be called on. (Howard. 2017), whereas the
Formal curriculum is the learning of subjects (the seven forms of knowledge) whereby these
subjects encapsulates the knowledge, skills and procedures which are important for
developing a rational, educated mind; the Hidden curriculum is structured throughout the
schooling environment to include not only the intended hidden curriculum, such as good
behaviour, but also the unintended social biases represented and reproduced by peers,
teaching, and administration staff. The Formal curriculum is an intended structure which is
organised by the teacher in such a way that it will covey understanding of the required
knowledge to the learner, and runs a structured course. Although students are being given
greater control over their learning, the teachers are still responsible for providing the learning
conditions and setting the learning boundaries; The Hidden curriculum, especially the
unintended objectives are constantly in movement, depending on societal values, beliefs, and
associated accepted norms. The Formal curriculum encapsulates a view of learning in which
it is straightforwardly assumed that what is learned is equivalent to what is to be tested.
(Paechter, C. 1999). The Formal curriculum exists within a static and restricted environment,
and is unchangeable in regards to what has been legislated to be acceptable within the
boundaries of the accepted divisions of knowledge.
The hidden curriculum within Zimbabwe and England can both be broken down into the
intended, and the unintended objectives or learning goals. Zimbabwe and England both are
based on a patriarchal society, and this societal belief has filtered into the educational
systems. Mutekwe and Modiba (2012) noted that due to these patriarchal societies, gender
biases in regards to girls and boys, within the educational system were being reproduced.
Since the Zimbabwean school curriculum was modelled on the English system, both
schooling environments were predisposed to be unequal in the treatment and expectation
between boys and girls. Teachers within Zimbabwean schools were perpetrating a sexist
discourse, which revealed that there was a belief that the feminine role was primarily
domestic and that it was the men that should be the providers and heads of families.
(Mutekwe and Modiba, 2012). This negative stereotyping, incorporated within the
patriarchal values, support Bourdieus (2008, as cited in Mutekwe and Modiba, 2012)
assertion that boys generally have access to an array of educational goodies, relevant
culturally but systematically denied to girls. The teachers attitudes and expectations
between the two genders result in a sustained pattern of disadvantage for the girls. (Ibid).
In a secondary school in Birmingham, Whyte et al (2002, as cited by Mutekwe and Modiba,
2012) noted that teachers preferred to teach boys as they were perceived as more active,
outspoken and willing to exchange ideas than the girls. This gender stereotyping within
Zimbabwe can be explained more as an intended learning goal within the hidden curriculum.
This is due to the belief that women should not compete with men over certain jobs, since
they are specifically for the men in the first place. Within England, gender stereotyping can
be explained in most areas, as an unintended result, since there have been greater measures
put in place to ensure equality between the genders, especially within society as a whole.
Although, this can still be intended, depending on how strong the patriarchal viewpoint is
within that particular section of society. The unintended result will more likely be exposed in
the segregation of duties given to boys and girls, whereby boys would be tasked with carrying
tables, whilst the girls would be sweeping. England has been consistently attempting to
encourage girls to choose the more masculine subjects, such as physics. The Institute of
Physics have implemented an action research plan, this plan provides additional resources to
support physics teachers who want to encourage more of their female pupils to engage with
the subject. (The Institute of Physics, 2012).
These social biases also extend towards other marginalised areas of society, such as race,
sexuality, and special needs. In regards to race, stereotypical judgements can become self
fulfilling. A BBC article noted that black male students in England, are seen as having bad
behaviour and failing which leads to the reaction from teachers to bad behaviour from them
is often more severe and quicker (The BBC, 2008). In regards to LGBT equality within
Britain, an article in The Telegraph noted future governments must tackle the embedded
homophobia, biphobia and transphobia that exist in some schools. (The Telegraph, 2015).
Both situations are evidence of the indirect effects of the hidden curriculum, recent legislation
within England has attempted to stop discrimination within schools. In Zimbabwe,
homosexuality is illegal, the hidden curriculum within schooling is a direct manifestation of
the legislation and the societal belief. LGBT students will be well aware of the repercussions
of their sexuality.
The Hidden curriculum also maintains the school environment, in regards to the timetabling,
class room structure and the direct implementation of the correct student behavioral patterns.
England has a yearly educational timetable which runs from September to September of the
following year, most schools have three terms, split into six half terms. In Zimbabwe, the
academic timetable runs from January to December of the same year, with the year being
broken down into three - month school terms which are broken up by a roughly one month
holiday prior to each term. This translates to about 40 weeks of school per year.
(Zimbabwe.cc, 2017). The daily timetabling of lessons within Zimbabwe starts at 8:15am in
the morning and finishes around 1:00pm in the afternoon, just before lunch. After this time,
there are structured sport and club activities until around 5:00pm. Zimbabwe did spend a time
where educational timetables were reproduced in the afternoon. This was known as hot-
seating, and allowed the morning timetables to be duplicated for additional students in the
afternoon. (Africa Files, 2010). The objectives on behaviour patterns are similar within
English and Zimbabwean schools. Both schooling systems integrate the belief that a well-
disciplined student will achieve greater success academically and socially. Until recently,
Zimbabwe still encouraged corporeal punishments within schools for students who
consistently misbehaved or truanted. The boys were caned and the girls were subjected to
being beaten with a slipper. A recent ban on corporeal punishment in Zimbabwe in 2015,
established the seriousness of the issue of discipline within schooling, when not long after
this ban a Head Teacher caned a student to death. The Progressive Union of Teachers in
Zimbabwe had been lobbying President Mugabe to reinstitute corporeal punishment when the
death of this student occurred. (The Telegraph, 2017). In England, behaviour in schools was
noted as being based on, good "old-fashioned" manners and respect (House of Commons,
2011, p. 26), and that Good order is essential in a school if children are to be able to fulfil
their learning potential (House of Commons, 2011, p. 3.) but this can be seen as
claustrophobic to students, since the societal group they live within, might not function in
similar measures. The basis of attaining these behaviour pattern does not consider different
learning difficulties or cultural situations the students might be experiencing.
Zimbabwe and England both adhere to the Formal curriculum being : a structure of testing of
what has been learnt; organised by the teacher in such a way that it will convey understanding
and knowledge to the student; a planned learning objective and experience, outlined by
Governmental legislation and syllabi content; and the learning of subjects (the seven forms of
knowledge) whereby these subjects encapsulates the knowledge, skills and procedures which
are important for developing a rational, educated mind. Zimbabwes formal curriculum
includes testing of knowledge at the end of primary school, in the form of the Grade 7
examinations, which incorporates four subjects: Maths; English; Science; and one of two
languages (Shona or Ndebele). (Africa Files, 2010). All schooling in Zimbabwe is taught in
the English language. The results from the Grade 7 examinations will be measured against the
entry requirements for the secondary schools. In England, the middle and at the end of the
primary stage of education, all pupils are required to sit the SATs (which are the statutory
assessments of the national curriculum), subjects covered in this examination are English and
Mathematics. The English side of the examination is broken down into four categories:
reading, grammar, punctuation, and spelling. (The BBC, 2016). This testing then extends to
the ZJC (Zimbabwean Junior Certificate) in Zimbabwe which would be the Key Stage 3 level
in England, and further onto the GCSEs and A Levels in both countries within the same year
groups. Both countries dispense the curriculum in the format of teacher based class room
activities, and the curriculum in secondary schools include the following compulsory
subjects, English, Mathematics, Science, History or one of the Technical/Vocational
subjects (Embassy of Zimbabwe, 2007). England has a further seven subjects which are
compulsory within the curriculum, these include physical education and music. In the
provision of the legislated curriculum, Zimbabwe and England both offer provision of
textbooks as a form of imparting and solidifying knowledge.
By understanding the key differences between the Formal and the Hidden curriculum, there
also comes the understanding of how they function in tandem with each other. Perhaps
pointing at the inevitable facet that they each form a symbiotic relationship with the other.
One cannot be adequately represented without the other, and to not include both within the
curriculum would not then provide for the complete knowledge which is then required as an
educated person with a reasoned mind. Although that education and reasoning has been
shown to be subject to the society and governmental legislation, within which the person
resides. Zimbabwe is not a western culture, but the assimilation of western culture values
from pre-colonial times, have impacted the society through the values of knowledge being
reproduced within the educational settings. This together with the patriarchal values of the
existing Shona and Ndebele tribes have caused a strict almost Victorian sentimentality to
exist towards schooling and behaviour. Through examination of the differences of the formal
and the hidden curriculum, the many similarities between England and Zimbabwe have been
highlighted, both within the social and educational context.

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