Accounting for a World Curriculum

ohn Meyer and David Kamens

[Edited from: Meyer, J.W. and Kamens, D.H. (1992) ‘Conclusion: accounting for a world curriculum’, in Meyer, J.W., Kamens, D.H. and Benavot, A., with Cha., Y.K. and Wong, S.Y. (eds) School Knowledge for the Masses: World Models and National Primary Curricular Categories in the Twentieth Century, London: Falmer Press, pp. 165-75]

The most important finding in our research is the relative homogeneity of the world's primary curricular outlines in the twentieth century. This is true descriptively - in the sense that there is considerably less variation among curricular outlines than reasonable arguments would have predicted. And it is true in an explanatory sense -factors that vary among countries play a smaller role than most theories would have proposed, in affecting variations among curricula. Further, we notice a pronounced tendency for curricular changes in particular countries to parallel each other and to take the form of conformity to world curricular patterns.

It turns out, thus, that through this century one may speak of a relatively clear 'world primary curriculum' operating, at least as an official standard, in almost all countries. A bit more than a third of the student's time is to be spent on language - and mainly on national language(s), not on local or foreign or classical ones. About one-sixth of the time goes to mathematics. A set of other subjects is practically always found (especially since the Second World War), with each subject taking 10 per cent of curricular time, or a bit less – social science, science, arts and physical education. Religious or moral education, and vocational education, are less universally present, and get only 5 per cent of the time. All other possible subjects -and many are found in one or another country at one or another time -take up in total less than a twentieth of the curriculum in the typical case.

The stylized character of the overall outline of the curriculum, or its...