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Curriculum Manual 9

Part 1: “UNPACKING OUR LUGGAGE” - our current concerns.


What is in our curriculum at this present moment and why?
PRESENT CONCERNS
At the Gujranwala conference of theological educators, where this paper had its origins, we
took the idea of unpacking, weighing and re-packing luggage as a picture to present what we need to
do when developing curriculum for any kind of theological education, including a long-term
programme of adult Christian education.
We noted first that the heavy luggage we carry with us on a long journey reflects our priorities:
a lap-top computer for a businessman; a cookery book for his wife; theological books for a Seminary
professor. But when we open our baggage in front of the suspicious customs official, we may well be
asked: “Why are you carrying this and that article into this country?” That is a good question to keep in
mind as we consider what is already packed in our curriculum “baggage”.
Part 1, then, is about our present concerns as reflected in our teaching schedules. Our focus is
on where we sense we are now, rather than where we might like to be tomorrow! If we are to be honest
with ourselves about this, we need to recognise three things:
• the nature of the content of what we have been teaching our students over the past three, or
whatever, years (i.e. the kind of learning we have been providing);
• the emphasis of our training (i.e. where the focus has been);
• the perimeters of our vision (i.e. where our thinking tends to stop).

The “journey” analogy suggests also that, before we start on our way, we should first check our
“destination”, the dictionary definition of which is: “the pre-determined end of a journey; the end or
purpose for which something is created.” What is the ultimate purpose of Theological Education? To
what pre-determined end do we plan our curricula?
Note: You might find it helpful to write short notes answering the questions in the discussion boxes that
occur throughout the manual. These reflections could then be shared with a colleague for discussion.

DISCUSSION
What do you consider is the ultimate purpose of Theological Education?

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Note on the derivation of the word “Curriculum”:


“Curriculum” literally means “a racecourse”, - from the Latin word currere (to run).
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A CURRICULUM CHECK-LIST
It is not easy to get a balanced view of what is being taught in a particular programme of
education unless some thought is also given to what is not being taught. This can be quite illuminating
as we all tend to assume the sufficiency of our own efforts. A comprehensive list of topics is needed
against which we can measure the range of our own educational work.
The “PROGRESSIVE CLASSIFICATION”, printed separately, provides an extensive list of
possible topics for inclusion in a total curriculum. This can be used in two ways:
• As a check-list to identify what is currently already covered by the curriculum of your
particular institution or programme;
• As a resource for providing ideas for additional subjects that might be considered for future
inclusion in your curriculum.
Note: This classification, which is not exhaustive, is not meant to represent the actual curriculum of any institution, least
of all to provide a blue-print for some imaginary ideal syllabus. Rather it offers the opportunity to select from a
classified “menu” of subjects. Thus a new course or programme can be constructed or a current curriculum revised.
It thus represents not the course itself, but suggested ingredients for a course.

If you are involved in an established institute of theological education or organisation providing


adult Christian education, you may wish to check your current curriculum against the “Progressive
Classification” now (before you go on to discuss the questions in the next Discussion Box). If you are
doing this with colleagues, you will probably find it best to allocate different sections of the list to
different people according to where particular responsibilities or interests lie. Make sure, though, that
every section gets covered!

DISCUSSION (after checking against the “Progressive Classification” menu)


What positive discoveries have you made through doing this check?

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What significant areas, in your view, have been shown up as being covered
inadequately?

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Are there any particular fields that could be dropped altogether? Which? Why?
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How balanced do you consider your present curriculum to be for your purposes?
 Very  Quite  Not very  Not at all
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WESTERN INFLUENCES on CURRICULUM

Western ways of doing things has greatly influenced Theological Education as it is experienced
in many parts of the world where such training is relatively new. Generally speaking such education has
been developed with a view to training church leaders rather than for the purpose of pursuing
theological study for its own sake.

Since Church leaders come in different “sizes”, each kind of leader requires a different kind of
training. However the influence of the Western emphasis on academic attainment is easily seen in
every training pattern adopted. These patterns might be diagrammed as follows:

Type / Level Leader of Leader of Leader of


Theologians
of Church a small a large a
Church and
Leader: Worker Congregation Congregation Denomination
Scholars*
--------------------- | -------------- | ------------------- | ------------------- | ---------------------- |
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Status: Voluntary Voluntary Paid Paid
Paid
--------------------- | -------------- | ------ ------------ | ------------------- |
- ---------------------- |
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Christian | | | |
Education | | | |
Means of by local | Bible School |
Training: Church | or |
or | Residential Seminary |
Theological Education or |
by Extension Foreign Training

* “A visit to seminary libraries in many two-thirds world countries reveals a sad lack in this category.”
(- Dr Lois McKinney, TEE Workshop, Gujranwala, Pakistan)

We see here two trends:


• (locally) a dependency upon residential forms of training for full-time church leaders;
• (for senior positions of influence in the Churches) a preference for training abroad.

When we look more closely at many local residential institutions of theological education, we soon
notice also:
• a Western style in the academic structure of these training programmes.

This style includes such distinctive ingredients as:


• content-orientated curriculum,
• a hierarchy of awards (certificates, diplomas and degrees),
• the requirement of academic (rather than educational) qualifications for theological teachers,
• and the whole gamut of institutional accreditation.
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(For a fuller critique of the Western educational model see Appendix K.)

This leads us into Part 2 where we evaluate different ways of constructing a curriculum for theological
education.

But before we do that, let us reflect on how much this relates to our own situation. (See the next
Discussion box on the page following.)
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Discuss the following with your colleagues (or simply note down your own reactions to these
questions):

DISCUSSION
What are the three most crucial training problems met in your own institution?

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Do they relate to any of the problems outlined above? Or do they arise from more local
difficulties (culture, attitudes, structures, etc)?
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