A comparative study of the secondary school curriculum in England and Wales and the Republic of Cameroon : issues of breadth, balance and relevance

Abangma, Patience

October 1992

Thesis or dissertation

© 1992 Patience Abangma. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder.

The question of breadth, balance and relevance of curriculum as a major concern of educational issues today, has provoked the investigation of their existence within the secondary school curriculum in England and Wales and in Cameroon. Arguments invoking the concept of subject-mindedness and integration in favour of specialisation or of breadth, are considered to be incomplete. Alternatively, arguments in favour of breadth, balance and relevance based on consideration of intrinsic and instrumental values of curriculum activities are considered. But some of the claims made on instrumental grounds for the importance of certain subjects as elements in the curriculum are be questionable. Like all other concepts, that of breadth, balance and relevance have been placed in the study within a certain context to bring out their meaning. In this thesis, the concepts are discussed in relation to the secondary school curriculum in both countries under study. This therefore led to a re-examination of the educational systems and curricula in both countries, and some curricula models with a view to answering our research question which is: "To what extent does the secondary school curriculum in England and Wales and in Cameroon reflect the principles of breadth, balance and relevance?".

For the purpose of this thesis, breadth has been related to the range of activities within the school and pupils response; balance in terms of the different values which the curriculum attaches to the various activities and the extent to which these activities are related to minimum teacher competence; while relevance is related to meaningful activities, satisfying needs of the child and values in the community and constantly evaluated to determine the extent to which it has achieved its goals.

The relativity of these concepts makes it necessary to find an organising conceptual framework within which these concepts can be made more practical. After much scanning through curricula models, and the purpose for which they are developed, it emerged from the study that Lawton's cultural analysis model which incorporates elements of Barnes (1976) view of objectives, values and experience of both pupils and teacher could be a much more practical model. An important aspect of a broad, balance and relevant curriculum is the ordering of priorities which on the one hand will depend on socio-economic and cultural context in which the curriculum is to operate and on the other hand, the perception of the whole notion of a curriculum.

An analysis of the literature and empirical findings from England and Wales has revealed that, their priority of socio-economic and cultural values are enhanced as a result of a much broader notion of the curriculum which is not only limited to traditional subjects taken at the examination. In which case, according priority to literacy, communication skills, personality and development skills, and attitudes related to the concepts of every day life which gives opportunities for pupils to excel and gain positions of high status in society. In contrast, the literature and findings from Cameroon have revealed that though socio-economic and cultural values are claimed to be a priority, the narrow interpretation of the concept of curriculum which limits it only to traditional subjects at the examination may fulfil the principles of breadth and balance but not relevance.

Consequently, a much broader notion of a curriculum will enable the principles of breadth, balance and relevance to be more practical. In this light, a curriculum tailored to the Cameroonian context, must therefore attempt to broaden the scope and perception of curricula and education offered in schools.

Department of Education, The University of Hull
Brock, Colin
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