What’s the idea?

An aims-based curriculum focuses on the needs and wants of students, equipping them to lead ‘personally flourishing’ lives and to help others to do so too (Reiss and White, 2013, p. 1).

What does it mean?

Reiss and White (2013) outline three interlinked and broad aims at the heart of an aims-based curriculum:

This is achieved by ensuring that schools prepare students for an autonomous life, giving them an awareness of their basic needs and how to fulfil them and developing pupils’ personal qualities, such as self-regulation and self-determination.

This involves developing good character traits and virtue in children, teaching them about their civic rights and responsibilities, and helping them to understand the world of work and how they might pursue a particular vocation.

This requires students to develop an understanding of human nature (biologically and culturally), including human history, evolution, geology and geography, astronomical knowledge, religious and non-religious beliefs about the beginning of the universe and what a ‘good life’ looks like. This broad background of understanding plays a role in enabling the pursuit of a worthwhile and meaningful life.

While helping students to form a broad background of understanding is a key aim, this doesn’t necessarily need to be achieved through a traditional subject-based approach. Within an aims-based curriculum, students may have greater autonomy over what they learn and schools may want to consider which subjects (and disciplinary strands) are compulsory and/or optional.

While knowledge is important within an aims-based curriculum, it is more important for schools to ‘encourage students to connect knowledge [and] to see parts in relation to wholes’, rather than in silos (Reiss and White, 2013, p. 42).

What are the implications for teachers?

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