In many countries around the world, the development and implementation of the school level curriculum is still very much centralized. The National School Curriculum as a program of learning for the young generations is a highly regarded and sensitive document as it contains the aspirations of the nation, charting its future path, preparing its citizen to face challenges that are yet to come. It is basically a document of hope. However, much of the excitement during the drafting and the adoption of the curriculum documents diminish and is often replaced by disappointment and disbelief. Sarcasm arises when it is found that there are gaps between the aspiration and the actual implementation. Gap in curriculum implementation is inevitable as there is no perfect system that yet exists in this world to ensure the seamless coordination between all the different sectors involved in curriculum implementation. However, this gap can be narrowed if more time is allowed for careful planning before the aspired curriculum is implemented.
In many parts of the world, especially the developing countries, in the quest of obtaining fast results, the many enabling blocks of curriculum implementation are not being seriously pondered and deliberated upon; a lot of assumptions are made and too much of well-meaning positive thinking sets in. Often, the management of change among those implementing are not being looked into carefully. The systemic change that is of absolute necessity for a change of this scale was not being orchestrated well and human factors not being deliberated deeply or rather at times, the implementation of change is being influenced by political situations or other national agenda. A plan not being implemented well cannot be justified as a worthy enough plan. The complexities of curriculum change is captured by Robert Stakes’ Congruence-Contingency Curriculum Evaluation Model where one needs to examine the prerequisites, the process and then the product of the curriculum implementation. Among the prerequisites are the required skills of the teachers to handle the curriculum change, the infrastructure and the finances. Curriculum developers need a steely mind and determination to bring through the plan, persistence and openness is much needed. On top of these, the need to put in place the mechanism of curriculum engineering (Beauchamp, 1975; Ornstein & Hunkins, 1993) is of utmost importance.
This paper looks into the various factors influencing curriculum implementation, especially looking at curriculum implementation as a change process (Armstrong, 1989; Beauchamp, 1975; Tanner and Tanner, 1975), curriculum engineering processes, and the interpretation of the curriculum specifications into classroom practice by the teachers. The Malaysian experience in curriculum development and implementation will be shared.