The preceding units have looked at curriculum philosophy and the way that different beliefs about language and learning are realised in different syllabus designs. We saw, for example, how a belief in the value of transmitting facts about the language, combined with a view of language as basically consisting of grammar entities, gave riseto a grammar syllabus organised on a scale of linguistic complexity from very simple to very complex. An alternative view of learning, however, is one that sees learning as being something experienced by, and in the control of, the learner. This belief, combined with a communicative conception of language, might be realised in a task-based syllabus, organised according to criteria of taskdifficulty.
Whatever the syllabus that is chosen, it has little chance of being successful if it fails to take into account the needs of the learners and their particular learning context. How do you assess these needs? Inevitably, a number of questions need to be asked.
As Dubin and Olshtain (1986) point out:
Before initiating a new language program, vital preparatory work in the form of informationgathering must take place. This fact-finding stage provides answers to the key questions in any program: Who are the learners? Who are the teachers? Why is the program necessary? Where will the program be implemented? How will it be implemented? The answers to these questions, in turn, become the basis for establishing policy or formulating goals. (1986: 5)
Nor does curriculum management stop atthis point. The decision to adopt a new syllabus can have important knock-on effects in terms of materials (Will new materials be needed?), methodology (Does the syllabus change involve a change in classroom teaching practices?), teacher training (What training will teachers need in order to implement the new programme?) and testing (Will new testing procedures be needed?). Moreover, theprogramme will need to be evaluated, so that changes and improvements can be made if necessary. These are the issues that are dealt with in this unit, i.e. curriculum planning, implementation and evaluation.
Table 5.1: Stages in curriculum design from The Second Language Curriculum,
(Johnson (ed.): 3).
At each stage of the curriculum planning process different groups or individuals areinvolved, and each stage is associated with a different kind of product or outcome. This process is summed up by Johnson (1989) in Table 5.1.
The first -policy-making- stage attempts to provide a general statement of curriculum philosophy and may be preceded by some kind of fact-finding stage. As we saw in Unit 1, curriculum goals are generally articulated in terms of theories of language andtheories of language learning. They may also make reference to the broader social context in which the language learning takes place.
National curriculum policies tend to be enshrined in official reports and policy statements. In Australia, for example, a National Policy on Languages (NPL) was formulated in 1987, with the following goals:
English for all
Support for Aboriginal languages
Alanguage other than English for all
Equitable and widespread language services
As Moore (1996) comments:
In the Australian context, these aspirations are thoroughly pluralist. They propose that the multiplicity of languages in Australia offers unique opportunities to develop a dynamic society. (1996: 475)
However, in 1991 the NPL was replaced by the Australian Language and Literacy Policy (ALLP),which re-stated the NPL goals, but with a subtle shift of emphasis so that a one-language (i.e. English) policy was emphasised at the expense of diversity: "The ALLP's role was to announce that pluralism had gone" (Moore, 1996: 481). The effect of this shift in emphasis has been widespread, resulting (among other things) in new testing procedures that emphasise literacy and competency.