What is a Hidden Curriculum?

What is a Hidden Curriculum?

  • Teachmint

When we say education, the picture of a traditional school/college picture pops into our heads. The idea of students scribbling in their notebooks while studying Mathematics, Science, English, and other essential subjects, comes very naturally to us. But is that all that these institutions teach?

No. At school, a child also learns many concepts that are informally and unintentionally taught in the school system. For example, Social expectations of gender, behavior, language or morals etc. All these, together, form the hidden curriculum.

What is a Hidden Curriculum?

In 2006, Jerald defined the hidden curriculum as an implicit curriculum that expresses and represents attitudes, knowledge and behaviour which are conveyed or communicated without conscious intent. It is said indirectly by words and actions that are parts of the life of everyone in society.

Suggested Read: Curriculum Development

For example: Being punctual at school. It is never taught explicitly. But a student often has to pay a late fine or visit the principal if they arrive late at school. These unpleasant penalties teach them to show uptime.

Another example: Team/sportsman spirit. Children are never taught that outright, but every school has a physical education class. When they play, they win sometimes and lose sometimes. These experiences teach them that.

Hidden Curriculum: Examples

  • Being respectful to your peers in school.
  • Working hard and responsibly.
  • Raising your hand to speak.
  • Not speaking when others speak.
  • Working with other people in a team.
  • Turning in assignments when due.
  • Being on time in class.

Hidden Curriculum Vs Core Curriculum

Here are some fundamental differences between the hidden curriculum and core curriculum.

Hidden Curriculum: Holding back the Core Curriculum

Why do schools have uniforms? Why do students in elementary and high schools study the same subjects? What do core curriculums try to achieve?

The answer is equality. The core curriculum identifies the fundamental knowledge each needs to sustain in society, irrespective of their innate interests and talents. A basic understanding of science, mathematics and English is crucial for any individual, regardless of whether he wants to become a soldier or a musician.

A Hidden Curriculum, however, is a side-effect of education—lessons which are learnt but not openly intended. The transmission of norms, values and beliefs conveyed in primary and secondary school settings.

One must understand how hidden curriculum clashes directly with the school’s strife for equal intellectual development. A hidden curriculum reinforces social inequalities by educating students according to their class and status. The unequal distribution of cultural capital in the society mirrors the corresponding distribution among its students. As we mentioned, there is no curriculum development here. Various aspects of learning contribute to the success of the hidden curriculum, including practices, procedures, rules, relationships and structures.

For example: Let’s consider punctuality at school again. The school imposes penalties on students who arrive late at school. Suppose you have two kids, A and B. A’s father is a wealthy businessman, while B’s father works as a security guard. A has a personal car to drive him to school, while B has to walk to school every day.

Even if both A and B live in the same locality, B is way more likely to get late for school than A. So when he gets punished for being late, the economic disparity between the two is reinforced, which the school never intended to.

Hidden Curriculum for Teachers

Can a hidden curriculum be taught?

The answer is yes, and no. As we said already, a hidden curriculum implies a set of morals and behaviours that students imbibe from the school environment. Although there can be no curriculum development here, some active teaching is possible. General education teachers can easily teach the hidden curriculum in their classes. All they need to do is take up one item per day. They can start the morning with one hidden curriculum item, talking about that and then asking a couple of experiences relative to it from students.

For example, let’s say today’s topic is teamwork. The teacher talks about its importance:

  1. It helps you build an interpersonal connection with people you have to execute a task.
  2. It teaches you to develop a liking for and amidst these people and tolerate what you do not like about them.
  3. It teaches you to handle rifts that happen in your working with them.
  4. It teaches you to build friendships that you can take beyond that setting or task.

After that, the teacher asks her students to share their experiences on the topic. Students C and D stand up to talk about a project they had done together the previous summer.

While C came from a relatively progressive household, D’s parents held conservative beliefs. C has casually suggested that they could do a sleepover at his house to finish the project. When D had talked to his parents about it, though, it had become an enormous issue.

Then they talk about how they had accommodated each other’s situation. The class, thus, gets to understand the challenges that building teamwork might face in real life.

In this way, by discussing such topics in class, teachers can achieve awareness among their students regarding these societal morals and behaviour.