Skip to content

Research Intelligence

Autumn 2021

International perspectives on the curriculum
Implications for teachers & schools

Research Intelligence issue 148

The internationalisation of curriculum, and the effects of globalisation and neoliberalism, are making increasing demands of universities and schools, including reform of the curriculum, teacher education and student assessment. These pressures call into question the traditional roles of disciplines and school subjects and how they can respond to these influences.

The special section in this isssue of RI, guest edited by Richard Pountney and Weipeng Yang of BERA’s Curriculum, Assessment and Pedagogy special interest group, examines two viewpoints concomitant with the notion of an international perspective on the curriculum.

  • A contextualised viewpoint, which argues that in our increasingly globalised world, having an international perspective integrated into the curriculum makes it possible to address political, economic, social and technological challenges from a point of view other than one’s own national and/or cultural context. This requires the ability to view problems from multiple historical and cultural vantage points, across national boundaries. Curriculum-makers’ task is therefore to accommodate these external influences in courses of study so that students can explain the role culture plays in constructing national, regional and international identities and evaluate the reciprocal influence of past and/or contemporary political, economic, social and technological trends on global developments.
    • Looking at curriculum making across European nations, Mark Priestley, Daniel Alvunger, Stavroula Philippou and Tiina Soini make the case for curriculum thinking to be at the heart of educational practice in schools.
    • Richard Pountney addresses the activist curriculum for dealing with global climate change.
    • Weipeng Yang focuses on curriculum hybridisation in a ‘glocal’ and digital society.
  • A second, knowledge viewpoint takes an internally focused, discipline-based approach as the starting point for analysing international issues, theories and debates from a wide range of fields. Drawing on theories of cultural reproduction, such approaches offer the means of critically examining how the curriculum is reproduced and recontextualised, recognising the role of disciplines as sites of the production of knowledge, and providing a methodology for examining the claims of internationalisation to improve the curriculum and, ultimately, learning.
    • Elizabeth Rata addresses the knowledge focus in curriculum studies, reflecting on the academic knowledge in New Zealand’s curriculum.
    • Taking a perspective from the European tradition of didaktik, Zongyi Deng examines knowledge, curriculum and teaching.
    • Johann Muller and Ursula Hoadley consider the dilution of subject knowledge in the curriculum reform in South Africa between 1997 and 2021.

Both viewpoints acknowledge curriculum, pedagogy and assessment as the core concern for teachers, but diverge on how an international agenda for teaching and learning further advances cultural diversity, supports multilateralism, and can strengthen communication and collaboration on global issues. The question arises whether the purpose of education is to cultivate and assess intercultural competence among 21st century citizens through schooling, or to provide the means for learners to use powerful knowledge to make sense of a fast-changing world.

Elsewhere in this issue, we profile Professor Neil Mercer, the John Nisbet Fellow for 2021; gain insights into the post-Soviet Russian education system, specifically its efforts to address students’ learning challenges; and consider the importance of social networks and ‘IRL’ interactions to early-career researchers.