The curriculum is everybody’s favourite flogging horse. Much is seen wrong with it. In our ongoing research on the “political economy” of secondary curriculum development in India, we came across a few aspects of curriculum development and testing that threw more light on what is wrong with the curriculum or its evaluation of the students. As one noted professor put it, “it is the curriculum which has failed the children and not vice versa!”

How curriculum design happens in India is through the following ways:
Remember that education is a concurrent subject in India with secondary education under the state’s domain.

1> National body A develops a curriculum for India and sends it to the states for framing their own curricula. A plays only an advisory role, states can develop their own curriculum if they want to. What actually happens is that most of the states take up this centrally designed curriculum with a few modifications, some states like Tamil Nadu, West Bengal and Maharashtra apparently have been more enterprising with respect to curriculum development, but then the “enterprising” nature has not always been devoid of political “colour”.

2> The secondary examinations are held by the boards at the state level (there are 22 state boards in India) or the only three national boards (CBSE/ICSE/NIOS). The main function of the boards is to conduct examinations. There have been a lot of complaints regarding board examinations, the way they are held, the way papers are evaluated and etc.

3> One point that seems to have been missed is that we learn towards our examinations, our curriculum may design what needs to be taught but our board examinations capture the framework of curriculum by determining what needs to be learnt. The incentives set in place by the board examinations are responsible to a large degree for
a> the way text/ reference books are written
b> the mushrooming of coaching centres
c> even the weight of the toddler’s school bag and others.

4> There is geographic decentralisation of education curriculum but there is no deconcentration of power in terms of curriclum framing. Curriculum design is still a privilege of the education department with little transparency. Neither is there the benefit of competition on these boards to improve their examinations or curricula. This gives rise to difficulties in inter-board transfer, no feedback of board examinations towards a better curriculum and others.

While we are still working at it, we welcome any suggestions that could improve the scope of the project or shed more light in terms of how different states actually frame their curriculum.

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Naveen Mandava
Naveen Mandava

Naveen is Co-Founder at XamCheck, an organization that partners with schools, supporting them in processes they follow, with learning materials and processes that are all crafted to work together as an interconnected system to drive learning. He is a Doctoral Fellow from RAND Graduate School in Santa Monica, United States of America. He has worked extensively on assessment based decision support for governments, non-profit organizations and schools chains in India and the USA for over 10 years. He has been a Lead Consultant with the World Bank’s Innovations for Poverty Action Consortium, a Policy Analyst with RAND Corporation and a Research Manager at Centre for Civil Society.