Curriculum development for 21st century education

19 May, 2019 12:00 AM printer

Curriculum development for 21st century education

We all know that education is fundamental to development and growth. Nowadays, quality education is one the best indicators to represent a country’s socio-economic status.

The human mind makes possible all development achievements from health and sciences and agricultural innovations to efficient public administration and private sector growth. For any country to reap this benefit fully, it needs to unleash the potential of the human mind, and there is no better tool for doing so than education.

Our honorable Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said “I never see spending money on education as an expense; I think it’s an investment”. According to her spending money on education means building the future generation who will be instrumental in materialising the dream of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman to make the country a ‘Golden Bengal’ (The Daily Star, July 25, 2018).

We know that education is about learning and curriculum is the ‘What’ and ‘How’ of learning. So curriculum is a plan or process for imparting articulated knowledge, skill and attitude to learners in a country. On the other hand, each and every government in the world tries to increase the number of educated population and skilled workforce to promote economic development. This is how curriculum bridges education and development.

After the phasing out of the Millennium Development Goals in 2015, United Nations launched the program of Sustainable Development Goals in 2016 with education as its mainstay where curriculum remains the heart. In this regard, Dr Mmantsetsa Marope, Director of International Bureau of Education, UNESCO asserts that for countries around the globe, quality curricula are those that enable learners of all ages to develop competence for meeting challenges and taking up opportunities in 21st century waves of change and the most immediate of which is the 4th industrial revolution. Relevance of sustainable development in this fast globalised world requires curricula to be lifelong learning systems in their own right, capable of constant self-renewal and innovation ( Marope, 2017).

We call 21st century as the age of knowledge. Here, world of connected knowledge work, global markets, tele-linked citizens, and blended cultural traditions demands a fresh set of responses. In this age, brainpower replaces brawnpower, and mechanical horsepower gives way to electronic hertzpower. Achieving education goals in our times is shaped by the increasingly powerful technologies we have for communicating, collaborating, and learning. And learning assumes a central role throughout life.

The 4th industrial revolution poses both opportunities and threats because of its speed, breadth and depth as well as system impacts. There are unlimited possibilities of having billions of people connected by mobile devices, giving rise to unprecedented processing power, storage capabilities and knowledge access. The staggering confluence of emerging technology breakthroughs, covering wide-ranging fields such as artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, the internet of things (IoT), autonomous vehicles, 3D printing, nanotechnology, biotechnology, material science, energy storage and quantum computing, to name a few.

The first and foremost threat of the 4th industrial revolution is increasing joblessness followed by inequality and income stagnation. Unequal societies tend to be more violent, have higher incarceration rates, and have lower levels of life expectancy than their more equal counterparts. New technologies may further concentrate benefits and value in the hands of the already wealthy. Those who didn’t benefit from earlier industrialisation risk being left even further behind.

The Sustainable Development Goal 4 has been spelt out as “Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all”. So curriculum for the 21st century education requires a unique set of cognitive, socio emotional and behavioral skills which will meet the goal as such. This should include skills regarding critical thinking, collaboration, creativity and communication (4C skills), problem based learning (PBL), and Global Citizenship Education (GCE), among others.

So, 21st century curriculum should be planned and systematic, Inclusive and consultative, led by curriculum professionals, cyclical in nature and sustainable. The curriculum itself should incorporate values of each child, comprise high quality, relevant and appropriate content and contribute to the development of competence. And it must be well organised and structured underpinned by a set of assumptions about how children learn.

With the above concerns, Government of Bangladesh has already taken an effort to revise and upgrade the existing curriculum to suit the educational needs and aspirations of the 21st century learners of this country. National Curriculum and Textbook Board (NCTB) has already been engaged in revising curriculum under the directives of both the Ministry of Education (MoE) and the Ministry of Primary and Mass Education (MoPME).


Professor Dr. A K M Reazul Hassan, Member, Primary Curriculum, National Curriculum and Textbook Board (NCTB), Bangladesh