Monday, 10 August 2015




Prepared by
M.Sc, M.Ed, JRF & NET

Calicut University has introduced a new paper entitled UNDERSTANDING DISCIPLINES AND SUBJECTS in the new 2 years B.Ed. Syllabus. This article shows the importance of this paper according to the views of NCTE.
This paper will enable student-teachers to reflect on the nature and role of disciplinary knowledge in the school curriculum, the paradigm shifts in the nature of disciplines, with some discussion on the history of the teaching of subject areas in schools (Montuschi, 2003; Porter, Porter, & Ross, 2003).
School education revolves around certain disciplinary areas like Language, Math, Social Science, Science etc. There have been debates about the role of such disciplinary knowledge in the overall schema of the school curriculum by philosophers like John Dewey.
Disciplines and school subjects are not ‘given’ but are products of history and geography - they emerged in particular social, political and intellectual contexts , especially over the last two centuries, and have been constantly redefined and reformulated (Goodson & Marsh, 2005). During the last fifty years or so most disciplinary areas, especially social science, natural science and linguistics have undergone a sea change. The questions that were asked, the methods of study and validation of knowledge etc. have changed substantially. The notion of knowledge as being firm and objective, impersonal and with a coherent structure is a product of particular social and political contexts and is now seen in a more diverse, dialogical, subjective, fluid and porous frame.
Even those areas of disciplinary knowledge such as mathematics, earlier considered ‘culture free’ and ‘universal’, are now seen through socio-cultural perspectives, and there have been attempts towards redefinitions of the school subject, also with concern for social justice.
It is increasingly recognised that for teachers to know a school subject they must know the ‘theory of content’how the content was selected, framed in the syllabus, and how it can be transformed so that learners construct their own knowledge through it.
The inclusion or exclusion of a subject area from the school curriculum too has had a social history. For instance, the introduction of primary science in the British school system in the late nineteenth century privileged a decontextualised abstract curriculum over the prevailing alternative of ‘Science of the Common things’ for the working classes, owing to pressure from dominant social groups (Hodson, 1987).
In India, modernist thinkers like Rammohan Roy hoped that western Science and Math and Philosophy would be taught in schools and colleges so that Indians could learn about recent developments in these areas.
In contrast the actual school curriculum as it developed emphasised the teaching of language, history and civics instead, as they were better vehicles of colonial indoctrination. In contrast in the post- Independence era the government placed importance on the teaching of science and math, which are now internationally being considered the vehicles of national development. However, the content as developed by subject experts is usually considered worth teaching and very little attention is paid to drawing upon the experience of children, their communities, their natural curiosities or even to the methods of study of the subjects. Thus there is a particular imagination of the subject, content and children implicit in the way curriculum and syllabus and text books are designed, which teachers will learn to examine.
Current discourses on school curricula challenge the notion of the ‘disciplinarity doctrine’ where school subjects are designed in a purely discipline-oriented, not learner-oriented manner, even though students may not pursue those after school. This design of school subjects also leaves out other kinds of knowledge, such as practical knowledge, community knowledge, intuitive or tacit knowledge, etc. and does not address issues of social reconstruction (Deng, 2013). With a focus on interdisciplinarity the nature of school subjects has to change. Moreover, work related subjects, such as, horticulture or hospitality, need to be creatively developed, which are not looked down upon as ‘nonacademic’.

1)    Deng, Z. (2013). School subjects and academic disciplines. In A. Luke, A. Woods, & K.Weir (Eds.), Curriculum, syllabus design and equity: A primer and model. Routledge.
2)    NCTE New B.Ed. Curriculum.
3)    Hodson, D. (1987). Science curriculum change in Victorian England: A case study of the science of common things. In I. Goodson (Ed.), International perspectives in curriculum history. Croom Helm.
4)    Goodson, I.F., & Marsh, C.J. (2005). Studying school subjects: A guide. Routledge
5)    Montuschi, E. (2003). Objects of social science. London: Continuum Press.
6) Porter, R., Porter, T.M., & Ross, D. (Eds.). (2003). The cambridge history of science: Volume 7, The modern social sciences. Cambridge University Press.
7) Calicut University New B.Ed 2 Years Syllabus.