6 Reform Recommendations for Language Learning Curricula
A good foundation for addressing language curriculum reform is to explore points of concern such as:
Does the language curriculum effectively prepare students to function in the target language?
Does the language curriculum match the needs and opportunities of language students in both rural and urban areas?
Do stakeholders have similar aims for the language curriculum? Are these priorities effectively communicated in the curriculum and the classroom?
The following six recommendations are based on UNESCO’s overarching 2030 Framework for Action educational goals (UNESCO, 2015).
1. Language curriculum should be contextually sensitive and adaptable to meet the needs of students in different regions and schools in a country.
This empowers students with the linguistic skills they need to “respond to local and global challenges” (UNESCO, 2015, p. 8).
2. Language curriculum should promote a lifelong acquisition and usage of language without undue focus on short-term academic and assessment goals.
This empowers students to communicate and connect with others in their new language in the family, school, community, and workplace contexts as well as through formal, non-formal, and informal modalities (UNESCO, n.d., p. 2).
3. Language curriculum should allow for a variety of teaching and learning methods.
Teachers who are “empowered, adequately recruited, well-trained, professionally qualified, motivated and supported” should not be regulated and limited to one way of teaching. Equally important is that the curriculum must allow students “the provision of flexible learning pathways” (UNESCO, 2015, p. 8).
4. All key stakeholders should take part in curricular decisions to ensure more aligned priorities, including parents, community members, and the students themselves.
UNESCO (2015) points out that school systems are becoming more democratized with every passing year (p. 57). The “planning, implementation and monitoring” of curriculum benefits from “involvement of families and communities to boost transparency” and “from the support of strong, multifaceted partnerships that bring together all key actors...guided by the principles of open, inclusive and participatory policy dialogue, along with mutual accountability, transparency, and synergy” (p. 58).
5. Teachers should be trained to both (a) take a more active role in adapting the curriculum to focus on the needs of their students and (b) allow students a more active role in their learning.
“To foster foundational skills, values, and attitudes which enable people to become lifelong learners, existing education systems must be transformed by a paradigm shift from teacher-centered approaches to learner-centered ones” (UNESCO, n.d., p. 10).
6. With displaced persons and refugees attending language classrooms around the world, the curriculum should be “inclusive, responsive and resilient” (UNESCO, 2015, p. 9).
Language classrooms should be safe environments for students from all backgrounds to try, make mistakes, learn and grow. “Inclusion and equity in and through education is the cornerstone of a transformative education agenda” (UNESCO, 2015, p. 7).
UNESCO. (n.d.) Institute for Lifelong Learning Technical Note. UNESCO. https://uil.unesco.org/fileadmin/keydocuments/LifelongLearning/en/UNESCOTechNotesLLL.pdf
UNESCO. (2015). Education 2030 Incheon Declaration and Framework for Action. UNESCO. http://uis.unesco.org/sites/default/files/documents/education-2030-incheon-framework-for-action-implementation-of-sdg4-2016-en_2.pdf