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The Curriculum, and the Hidden Curriculum, in Indian Education, 1985 to the Present: Perspectives from Sri Lanka to Nepal

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In this essay, I focus on various curricular practices of Indian schools. I discuss curriculum not as the declared, intended, or tested curriculum, but as the experienced, taught, and learnt curriculum, or what may be observed by an ethnographer sitting for the whole school day in various classrooms as the sum total of the processes that are going on under the school roof. Then the “hidden curriculum,” as the name implies, includes the non-explicit, implicit, unstated things that are also being taught to children in school along with the explicitly stated curricular subjects. This hidden curriculum is always present and relies on the structures and processes of schools, including spatial layouts, language use, interrelationships, rituals, and symbols. I highlight the importance of the curriculum, including the hidden curriculum, and mark the change in it over thirty years.

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Although two recently fashionable items in educational discourse (the hidden curriculum and qualitative inquiry) have been strangely isolated from each other in the literature, qualitative inquiry methods may well be the most appropriate tools available for studying the hidden curriculum. Both concepts demand an approach to educational research which is unlike that adopted in studying regularly observable educational events using traditional (“quantitative”) research methods. The state of mind required by inquiry into the hidden curriculum is by definition open to unknowns and attuned to the subtle and irregular qualities of schooling. Much the same can be said of qualitative inquiry methods. Though the study of the hidden curriculum can benefit from some traditional research methodologies, the concept demands that we also be willing to venture into uncharted territory. Qualitative inquiry provides a means of inquiry which is loosened from traditional constraints, just as the hidden curriculum is a subject of investigation which escapes the traditional definitions of schooling. The two concepts challenge each other in potentially productive ways. Together they may encourage more flexibility both in defining what is educationally important and in understanding how those important qualities of schooling operate.
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