DEVELOPING CURRICULUM DESIGN FOR THE 21ST CENTURY – BALANCING THE NEED OF CHARACTER BUILDING AND MEETING OTHER EMERGING NEEDS OF THE FUTURE

DR. NG SOO BOON

21st century is a challenging time both in the technological sphere as well as in education and social front. The advent of Industrial Revolution 4.0 with the seemingly unstoppable rapidly advancing and proliferation of emerging technologies such as Artificial Intelligence, Internet of things, 3D printing infiltrating our everyday living brought forward the need to keep abreast of latest inventions as it was repeatedly emphasized that future jobs hinges on knowledge and skills in these inventions and skills. However surfacing at the same time are the changes in social fabrics and social cohesion as well as family values and belief systems. Fast changes creates more social inequality and confusion in our traditional value system. Society is increasingly plagued with dichotomy and conflicts, the line between justice and injustice as well as rights and wrongs is blurring. As education is preparing the learners for the future, educators grapple with a future which is rather unknown and try to figure out the perceived needs of this century ranging from technological skills, cognitive skills, learning skills, literacy skills, life skills, social skills to intrapersonal skills. There is an urgent need to determine our priority, how should we package all these knowledge and skills into school curriculum? Should the curriculum design be more humanistic or retain the largely behavioristic one embraced in the last century. Competence based curriculum proposed by UNESCO IBE seems to be a preferred curriculum design in many countries. Competence based curriculum which has been used widely in technical courses is widening its scope to include values and ethics. Could values and character building be stated sufficiently in the form of competence? It is my view that character building and values is best looked upon from the practice and ethics perspective and this requires strategic and deep thinking. A thinking based curriculum cannot be void of these character building and values components, it should be enhanced by them. Core competences required to fulfill the Sustainable Development Goals in the UNESCO 2030 agenda has an undertone of values and ethics and should be the focus of the curriculum design of the 21st century. Truly in this century the need to develop the future generation of learning to be, learning to live together, learning to know, and learning to do, the four pillars upheld by UNESCO is so much relevant and needed. There is a need to harmonize humanistic curriculum design with behavioristic curriculum design as we embrace transformation in the way we do things and we live our everyday life brought about through Industrial Revolution 4.0. We need to look inward spiritually and to develop the inner being so that we can live in peace with ourselves, with others and make decisions for the common good of all. Any content oriented curriculum do not need to be void of character building if we adopt pedagogies requiring students to think through ethical dilemmas and propose best course of action in the face of conflicting choices (Chowning and Fraser, 2007; Kelley, T R. and Knowles J.G, 2016). The future curriculum needs to break away from the present subject based design but to look beyond, moving into more multidisciplinary, transdisciplinary where the lines between subjects are blurring, where big ideas are being explored and where learning can be more holistic and meaningful.