To plan or not to plan a hidden curriculum: A case study

Tak Shing John LAM

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper

Abstract

The concept of hidden curriculum has been interpreted in various perspectives and the diversity of its functions, patterns and definitions has also cried for a more consensual platform for discussion. It has been linked with values acquisition, socialization, and maintenance of class structures (Vallance, 1991, Anyon, 1981; Bowles & Gintis, 1976), the social structure of the classroom (Dreeban, 1967), the moral dimension (Kohlberg, 1970), hegemony (Apple, 1975) and the social stratification of class, race, and gender (Apple, 1982; Aronowitz & Giroux,1985; Giroux & Purpel, 1983; Oakes, 1985; Weiss, 1988). In this study, hidden curriculum is defined as 'those practices and outcomes of schooling which, while not explicit in curriculum guides or school policy, nevertheless seem to be a regular and effective part of the school experience' (Vallance, 1991, p.40). It involves the cognitive, physical and social environment of a school (Gordon, 1982). Bloom(1972) maintains that the hidden curriculum 'is in many respects likely to be more effective than the manifest curriculum' because hidden curriculum is 'so pervasive and consistent over the many yeas in which our students attend school. Its lessons are experienced daily and learned firmly...' (p.343) and also its transmission is unconscious, thus making the students less likely to resist its influence. Also the outcomes of a hidden curriculum can either be intended or unintended. This study aims to study the functions, patterns and efficacy of the hidden curriculum as perceived by the students and teachers in a primary school in Tai Po. The research was carried out mainly through a two-week attachment scheme initiated by the Hong Kong Institute of Education in which the researcher was arranged to get first hand experience of primary school teaching in the case school. Some follow-up interviews and observation were made within the month after the two-week attachment finished. The findings from the fieldwork has inevitably turned this paper into an open discussion paper that aims to stimulate and solicit more different views and suggestions. As triangulated between students and teachers, the school was perceived to have a very successful hidden curriculum in developing the students' moral and religious well-being, followed by successful engagement of the students in their studies and thirdly, in their physical and social well-being through extra-curricular activities and functions. The patterns of the hidden curriculum were in the form of morning and weekly assemblies, class-teacher lesson, lunch-time and after-school teacher-class meetings, extensive and varied extra-curricular activities and school functions. One interesting revelation is the almost unanimous inclination of the teaching staff (as well as the Panel Heads and the Headmistress) of using a holistic approach of planning and implementing the hidden curriculum. They perceived the breaking- down of the holistic hidden curriculum aims (school educational aims) and the resultant targetting/ planning /implemention of the more specific and short-term educational/curricular aims as unpractical, unnecessary, and almost impossible. The advantages and disadvantages of a planned hidden curriculum are discussed. Based on ideas learnt from practices of hidden, informal and activity curriculum in the People's Republic of China, propositions as to some possible ways of planning, implementing and evaluating hidden or informal curriculum are made.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 1999

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curriculum
school
student
teacher
planning
primary school teaching
well-being
school policy
social stratification
holistic approach
hegemony
social structure
socialization
primary school
Hong Kong
experience
classroom
China
gender
interview

Citation

Lam, T. S. J. (1999, November). To plan or not to plan a hidden curriculum: A case study. Paper presented at the Hong Kong Educational Research Association (HKERA) 16th Annual Conference: Exploring New Frontiers in Education, The Hong Kong Institute of Education, China.