At the invitation of the Syrian National Centre for Curriculum Development (NCCD) and of the Syrian NATCOM, UNESCO Office in Beirut conducted a third training workshop in Damascus, in March 2017, for the NCCD curriculum specialists that focused on subject curriculum development. Based on previous workshops (December 2015 and September 2016), when the Syrian specialists worked on defining the main elements of their new Curriculum Framework, this time more than 35 members of different subject committees gathered to inquire about quality subject curricula that is aligned with the values, principles, objectives and expected outcomes of the Syrian National Curriculum Framework.
Participants shared samples of their work to date, while tackling the important issue of agreeing on a common syllabus template that should reflect a learner-centred approach in a harmonized way. They shared also what is new in their proposed subject curricula by taking into account international and Regional trends and innovative approaches. For instance, in the realms of Math and Sciences, links with real life situations and problem solving have been brought up. In the context of languages (i.e. Arabic as Mother Tongue, English and French) the balance between a newer communicative approach and a more traditional approach focusing on grammar and literature became subject of animated debates. Integrating cross-cutting issues in all subjects, such as sustainable development and Global Citizenship Education has been tackled based on examples from different subjects with a view to strengthen meaningful synergies, while avoiding duplications and student overload. Participants explored also meaningful ways in which each subject area/subject can contribute to the development of the key competencies identified in the Syrian Curriculum Framework, such as basic skills (i.e. numeracy and literacy); thinking skills; communication skills; skills for life and work; ICT-related skills; and motor skills.
Based on constructive feedback to the presentations of different subject committees, participants agreed on a number of recommendations that will constitute the basis for a quality check lists of the newly-developed subject curricula. The list integrates elements such as whether the subject curricula promote an innovative, forward-thinking concept of learning; whether they are user-friendly, succinct and clear; whether they orientate teachers, textbook authors and other stakeholders well enough with regard to why, what, how, and how well students should learn; and whether they promote meaningful teaching and learning strategies that engage learners through building on their previous knowledge, experiences, interests and contexts.
During the workshop, the issue of translating the newly-developed subject curricula into revised textbooks and other learning resources has been equally addressed, especially from the perspective of integrating new technologies that will both require and further digital competencies.
Participants agreed also on the need to allow for curriculum differentiation in specific ways, so as to promote inclusiveness and appropriate challenges by taking into account the learners’ age, gender, and local environments, as well as their particular learning needs. Since Syria is a country in war, the new subject curricula will also tackle psychosocial issues quite extensively, while promoting the values of resilience, constructive management of diversity and peace.
As Dr. Darem Tabaa, The NCCD Director stated, “there are no universal recipes for quality curriculum development. Each country can however learn from its own experiences, as well as from successful and less successful international and Regional experiences”. In their evaluations participants deemed the workshop extremely useful because, on the one hand, it gave them an opportunity to share with one another with a view to explore their strengths and weaknesses in revising their subject curricula, while, on the other hand, it constituted an opportunity to placing the Syria curriculum process onto a broader picture of international and Regional trends and developments.