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What is an Educational Curriculum?

By Felicia Dye
Updated Mar 02, 2024
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An educational curriculum is a path of learning that students are typically required to follow. This path of learning can be outlined by school officials or by government officials. It usually includes comprehension of core subjects such as reading, writing, mathematics and sciences. Upon successfully completing an educational curriculum, students generally receive some type of diploma, degree, or certificate.

An educational curriculum generally outlines what courses a student must take. In the primary years of education, children tend to have few choices. All students normally take the same classes in the same order. If a student needs to take special classes, these tend to be suggested at the discretion of the school.

In the middle years of primary education, students may be offered more flexibility. The educational curriculum may require certain types of courses but the child and his parents may be able to choose among them. For example, foreign language studies may be required but there may be several foreign languages to choose from.

In high school, students are generally offered more freedom to choose how they fulfill the requirements of the educational curriculum. The options may include different mathematics, science and social studies courses. If a student successfully completes the course work through the last year of high school, he should graduate and receive a diploma.

After high school, people may choose secondary education. If they do, they will likely choose their field of study. The educational curriculum that they must follow is generally dependent upon this choice. Artists and lawyers may be required to take some of the same courses, but most of their studies are likely to be different.

Students typically have more flexibility during their secondary education than in high school. They generally also have more options of courses. There also tends to be more freedom for students to take courses in the order they desire, as long as the learning path is completed before they apply for graduation. Some trade schools and colleges, however, may be a bit more rigid. Completion should result in a degree or professional certificate.

In addition to the courses that must be taken, an educational curriculum typically sets the standard that must be met while students are engaged in their studies. The educational path can vary, however, from one location to another. This is true even within a country or a state. It is common for there to be differences between what is required at private schools and what is required in public schools.

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Discussion Comments

By John57 — On Aug 16, 2011

No matter where you attend college, it seems like the first two years are pretty standard when it comes to your educational curriculum.

One explanation is that it gives you a well rounded education. Also, most kids don't really know what they want to do the first two years of college, and this helps them get a feel for that.

You can make quite a few changes in your curriculum during the first few years of college and still graduate in four years with the degree you want.

The most important thing is to work closely with your adviser so you stay on track and don't take classes that you don't need or won't count toward your degree.

By bagley79 — On Aug 16, 2011

When my son was in high school, he graduated a year earlier than his classmates. The year after he did this, our state made changes in our educational curriculum making this much harder to accomplish.

This is not something that I would recommend for most students, but he was very motivated by it and was able to accomplish it. The downside was that he struggled quite a bit his first year in college.

The changes they added to the curriculum were mostly adding on more credit hours to the math and sciences. I think this was a positive change for the students as it gave them a much stronger background in these areas.

In the long run, I am also sure it improved their educational test scores.

By sneakers41 — On Aug 15, 2011

@Cafe41 - I wanted to add that not all schools are like this. I had a friend whose son took a bunch of Advanced Placement courses in high school and was able to skip a year of college because he received college credit from these courses.

I also know that some high schools also offer dual enrollment for some gifted high school students as part of their curriculum. As a matter of fact, we have a high school in town that is only for eleventh and twelfth grade students that offers college level courses for these kids.

This is a public high school that students need to qualify for based on standardized testing. It is a great option for students that can’t be served by a traditional high school curriculum. These kids not only graduate with a high school diploma, but they also receive an Associate’s degree as well.

By cafe41 — On Aug 15, 2011

@GreenWeaver - I wanted to add that many community colleges and traditional universities are now adding a record number of remedial courses in both math, writing and reading because many of the students entering are not ready for college level work.

Many of these students earned A’s and B’s in high school and are not able to construct a standard college essay. I think that many schools across the board have to align their curriculum to prepare students to enter college without problems because if not, these students may drop out of college because they may get discouraged with all of the additional classes that they will have to take.

By GreenWeaver — On Aug 14, 2011

The educational curriculum of a school has to be rigorous enough for students to be able to get into competitive high schools. I know that many private schools rave about their educational curriculum but it is really put to the test when a student tries to get into another school.

I say this because when my daughter was in PreK I analyzed the curriculum and although the school had rave reviews I did not think that the school offered a rigorous education and I switched my daughter to another school for kindergarten.

I later got confirmation that I was right when I ran into the teacher’s assistant that worked with my daughter in PreK. She also had her daughter enrolled in the school but kept her there for many years. When her daughter tried to get into a competitive school for fourth grade, they told her that her reading and math skills were two grades below grade level and because her mother was a legacy they would consider her admittance but the girl would have to repeat third grade.

You really have to stay on top at the curriculum at your kid’s school and see what type of homework they are getting because this should not happen.

By Tomislav — On Aug 13, 2011

@bluespirit - At my school my curriculum facilitator was already there when I came, but I have since learned she was a teacher before she was a curriculum facilitator. I think this makes her an excellent curriculum facilitator because she knows how to help teachers work with the curriculum in a real-world sort of way because she was one!

I do not know if this particular curriculum facilitator took specific training beyond being a teacher, but I would imagine with each school district being different and curriculums changing that every year you would have to receive specific trainings and updates to keep you in tune with the latest.

By bluespirit — On Aug 13, 2011

@speechie - I don't remember too many of my curriculum courses that sounded like they were as much of a waste of time as University Studies but it has also been a while since I was an undergraduate!

We have an educational curriculum facilitator at my school and she is incredibly crucial to our school. My school is a school for students with severe to profound disabilities so every single child has an individualized education plan (IEP) and these IEP's have to be in line with the most current curriculum.

Many times with our students and with our ever-changing curriculum this is hard to do, to keep the IEPs and curriculum in line and in sync together. However, our curriculum facilitator stays on top of the latest changes and guidelines and is always helping us write more effective IEPs.

My question is - does anybody know how you can become an educational curriculum facilitator? I do not remember it being a specific major in college.

By Speechie — On Aug 12, 2011

I always thought that some of the classes laid out in my university's curriculum were not worthy of a college class, much less the price of a college class.

One such class was called University Studies. It was supposed to be taken by every single freshman as part of their curriculum and was thought to be essential because you were learning about the University.

I disagreed, but they argued that it was a part of the curriculum, and that I thought would be too tough to argue.

But in the end, I think I would have navigated my way through my university career just fine without my University Studies course! Did anybody else have classes like these as part of their university's curriculum?

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