A New Way of Learning: Four Unique Curriculum Innovations

Calla McCabe

The term curriculum refers to the lessons and academic content taught in a school or in a specific course or program. It is one of the foundational elements of effective schooling and teaching.  Furthermore, curriculum also refers to the knowledge and skills students are expected to learn.  Curricula are not static and are often subject to  reform and redesign to fit students’ needs or to accommodate learning patterns that will prove to be most beneficial to students.  

In developing countries, and even developed countries, changing a curriculum is extremely difficult.  It is necessary for schools to have a clear direction, staff and administrative support, and sometimes even government support.  CEI has profiled over 90 programs with a focus on curriculum reform and design.  Through unique innovations, these  programs are making strides in creating comprehensive and inclusive curricula for their students.  Designing curricula that will prove effective in schools in the developing world might entail: use of technology, teacher training, skills work, science, arts, and inclusion of sports, e-books, and more.  

Teach the Teacher Program's approach is to provide Cambodian children with access to quality teaching and learning at school. Complemented by the Better Schools and Getting to School programs, Teach the Teacher places an emphasis on the ‘quality’ of education in Cambodia through improving the professional knowledge and teaching practice of primary school teachers in rural areas. It is also the primary program under SeeBeyondBorders and will work with approximately 100 Cambodian teachers in a district. The teachers are generally in the training component of the Teach the Teacher program for three years and take part in a sequential series of workshops. The sequencing of workshops ensures that all participants have the opportunity to be part of a program that is - on going, progressively builds on participants’ knowledge and skills, and offers participants a supportive, mentored professional development opportunity. It also ensures that the program is both practical and sustainable. Read more here...

Bridge International Academies is a chain of over 300 low-cost private schools in Kenya with approximately 100,000 students enrolled. Bridge has designed an “Academy in a Box” model, which seeks to deliver high quality education through standardization. Bridge invests heavily in developing a strong curriculum created by experts in the education field. The curriculum itself is standardized and transformed into scripted lesson plans, which include step-by-step instructions detailing what teachers should do and say during any given moment of a class. Teacher scripts are delivered through data-enabled tablets, synced to headquarters, enabling Bridge to monitor lesson pacing, record attendance, track assessment scores, and update or add lesson scripts in real time.  Lesson standardization enables less qualified teachers to deliver lessons of a higher quality than their level of experience would otherwise allow. Teachers come from the local communities and receive thorough training in delivering the Bridge curriculum. In this way, Bridge seeks to contribute to the local community by driving job creation. Bridge’s curriculum is based on government standards, with a greater emphasis on basic literacy, numeracy, and critical thinking skills in the early grades. Learn more here...

The Baalabalaga School is a unique, equal-opportunity private school located on a specially designed campus in Dharwad. The school employs a unique financing structure whereby it requires each student's household to pay as much as they can afford, and the school funds the remainder of each student's tuition. This cross-subsidization scheme has allowed working-class parents to enroll their students in the school from a young age and involve themselves in their education through secondary grade levels. The school operates on the belief that students benefit from more than the state-mandated curriculum but rather from participatory learning in a variety of enrichment subjects such as art, music, and daily-life lessons.  The school aims to prepare its student for a holistic and self-conceived lifestyle by providing curricula personalized to the interests and energy of each of its students. Built on the idea that students learn best when they directly experience what they want to learn, Baalabalaga's teachers incorporate experiential learning into each of their classes. Read more here...

The Young Heroes Program has been developed in response to the rising trend of inactivity in young South Africans, inadequate implementation of physical education, and the lack of adequate opportunities to play sport in many schools. The aim of this program is to make a positive contribution to society through sport and physical education. A cluster approach has been adopted in the implementation of this comprehensive physical education and sport curriculum in primary and secondary schools in low income communities. Teachers of 5 schools in an area are offered training workshops in RedCap Centres of Excellence, providing them with practical and theoretical skills in all 4 areas of the program, namely, physical education, intramural physical activity, extramural physical activity and sport and interschool sport leagues. The schools represented are also given equipment and resource manuals to assist in the delivery of all these activities. Since the inception of the Young Heroes Program, over 165 schools and 225,000 young learners have developed a healthy lifestyle and passion for regular exercise, and, future sporting talent has been identified and nurtured. Learn more here...

To learn more about this topic, check out the following programs and resources on the CEI website: 

  • iSchool is an online multi-media e-learning package that includes both teacher lesson plans and interactive learning content. The content includes 5,000 detailed lesson plans covering the entire Zambian primary school curriculum and is designed to encourage inquiry-based learning.
  • Edupeg is an educational program used in South African schools that consists of an innovative peg-board learning tool and creative workbooks that encourage active student learning with an emphasis on developing numeracy and literacy skills. Edupeg also offers ongoing training and support to teachers.
  • Barefoot College Night Schools cater to children unable to attend formal school during the day. Schools seek to create a motivating educational environment for children in rural areas by teaching them local knowledge through engaging learning processes and involving adults in the delivery of education.
  • War Child, in conjunction with local Congolese organizations, the Ministry of Education, radio stations, and community members in South Kivu province, is rebuilding education infrastructure by repairing and reopening schools, offering child-focused programming, and training teachers.
  • Tostan’s Community Empowerment Program (CEP) uses a nonformal, human rights-based approach to education wherein it aims to empower communities with the knowledge and tools that will enable them to develop their own futures.
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