This unit provides an explanation for the reason and gist of curriculum development. It includes elements of a curriculum, factors which influence curriculum development, participants in curriculum development and various approaches to curriculum development were explored and in the subsequent units


The Constituent Elements of a Curriculum

The constituent elements of a curriculum are:

1. A statement of rationale: This outlines the general philosophy of the training programme and why it is required.

2. Outline of the ph ysical, administrative and financial requirements for such a course (resources).

3. Definition of the optimal facilities in terms of buildings, equipment and personnel.

4. A precise statement of entry requirements for students and methods of selection.

5. A statement of course goals, specific objectives and course content.

6. An outline of main learning experiences which should be arranged to meet the objectives.

7. An outline of programmes giving a logical sequence of events.

8. Specification of how long each unit or learning block should take.

9. Specification of methods of continuous evaluation, final certification, remedial activities and referral of failed candidates.

 Factors Which Influence Curriculum Development

A number of factors influence the process of developing a curriculum. These include academic, social, economic and political factors.

(a) Academic factors: These factors are significant in influencing curricula. They represent the views of the teachers who teach the main subjects of a given health discipline.

(b) Social factors: The needs of the society dictate to a great extent what learners should learn. With this consideration, the curriculum is designed to reflect the social and cultural needs of the local population, thus rendering it relevant.

(c) Economic factors: Curriculum development is money consuming especially if it is to be done at the national level. The inputs of experts both at the local and foreign levels and other different groups of people and associations are to be sought for.

To get the curriculum document itself tested and evaluated and to carry out some other necessary activities, will certainly require a huge expense. It should also be stressed that the kind of economic policy a country wishes to have in operation may also be a factor in influencing curriculum development.

(d) Political factors: This factor is very crucial and should not be ignored as the number and type of students to be trained is sometimes a political decision. In democracy, the manifestos and the promises of political parties during electioneering campaigns may lead to development of curriculum.

 Participants in Curriculum Development

The participants in curriculum development are those individuals or groups of individuals who exert some influence, either direct or indirect in determining the nature and activities of the curriculum. These individuals and groups can be classified into external or internal participants.

Internal Participants

The internal participants are those individuals or groups who have direct connection with the curriculum under consideration. Because of their direct influence, the internal participants exert a greater force in determining the nature of the curriculum.

In developing a curriculum for health workers, six major groups of internal participants can be identified: students, teachers, administrators, boards of examiners, ministries of health and education, professional associations publishers and textbook writers.

External Participants

Many external participants in curriculum development may not exert direct influence on the process of curriculum development. But the power that these individuals or groups can exert cannot be underestimated. These are: the community, business and industry and non-governmental organizations.

Approaches to Curriculum Development

Several approaches have been used in the development of curricula but only three will be discussed here.

(a) The Subject-Centred Approach

In this approach, subject specialists define the content required for a particular level of student. In general, the content is ordered from pre-clinical subjects through to clinical subjects. The approach assumes that nursing is a series of discrete, independent disciplines, the sum of which form the required body of knowledge for a competent individual.

Discussion as to how much of each subject should be included in the training programme revolves around the total time available. The decision regarding total time for the course tends to be taken by policy makers and health planners rather than learners.

Although this approach makes curriculum development an orderl y process, it poses various problems. It puts the subject before the student.

The needs of the students are virtually ignored. Too much time is taken in acquiring knowle dge and not enough in learning necessary skills.

(b) The Integrated Approach

This approach is still subject centered and the only variation from the straight subject-centered approach is that teaching units are fused together with larger structures or organ systems such as the Cardiovascular, Central Nervous System, GIT, Respiratory, Endocrine Systems etc.

The emphasis in an integrated approach is on providing learners with less discrete chunks of information. It is hoped that the learner perceives regularities and principles in the nursing discipline and hence develops higher-order intellectual skills which are more easily transferable to the problem-solving situations which arise in their work. Such an approach can be used in conjunction with the competency-based approach.

The Competency-Based or Task-Based Approach

The approach is used mainly in training. Usually, it is the best approach in training of health workers. Some typical features are:

1. The curriculum is organized around the functions of a health worker in a specified setting.

2. The output of training is a health worker who can practice at a defined level of proficiency in accordance with local conditions.

3. It is assumed that the majority of individuals can master the required level of proficiency, given appropriate instruction and sufficient time.

The approach emphasizes that the setting within which the health workers will be expected to operate is an extremely important determinant of the required level and type of competence.


In developing a curriculum that will meet the demands of the society, factors that influence curriculum development and the participants must be properly considered as these variables determines to a great extent the relevance and usefulness of the curriculum.

 Source: School of Education, National Open University of Nigeria

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