In schools and institutions, students are taught the “formal” curriculum. This curriculum comprises courses, lessons, and other learning experiences, such as tests, quizzes, and assessments. The curriculum is taught intentionally: teachers teach students these skills and knowledge.

The Hidden Curriculum, however, comprises the lessons and knowledge students learn that are not part of the curriculum or the course of study. This knowledge will not have been included as part of the formal curriculum but will instead be taught – often unintentionally – alongside the other lessons.

What might be taught as part of the Hidden Curriculum?

As the Hidden Curriculum is informal and sometimes unintentional, what is taught from school to school or from teacher to teacher can vary. However, some elements that are likely to be included are written below:

  • Respecting authority: as children learn from and interact with a teacher, they may learn to respect them and other authority figures within the school.
  • Respect for other pupils’ opinions: by making sure that students listen to and think about the views and ideas raised by their fellow pupils, teachers can ensure that they learn to respect the opinions and statements of others.
  • Punctuality: school runs on a formal timetable, with set times for the day and classes to start and end. By maintaining and explaining the importance of sticking to this timetable, teachers can help students become punctual.
  • Aspiring to achieve: teachers can use various methods to help children take pride in their achievements and want to go on and achieve more, whether this is done using certificates or by giving children responsibility for assessing their progress.
  • Having a “work ethic”: a teacher can also ensure that students know what working conscientiously can help them achieve, making it more likely that they will continue to apply themselves moving forward.

Why is it called “the Hidden Curriculum”?

The Hidden Curriculum has its name because the lessons or knowledge it is made from are often unacknowledged or unexamined by educators, students, or the wider community.

However, a lot of what the Hidden Curriculum teaches is often included in the school rules, which are almost always written down and put on display, or told clearly to students (as it’s expected that they should know and follow the school rules!). As this is the case, it has been questioned whether the curriculum can be called “hidden.”

What are the disadvantages of the Hidden Curriculum?

Although it might not necessarily seem harmful, several adverse effects of the Hidden Curriculum have been pointed out. Below are some of the disadvantages that have been pointed out:

  • A hidden curriculum can reveal hypocrisy if what a school says it does is not the same as what it does. For example, a school might claim that it wants all students to do well academically, but the hidden curriculum might teach students that only those from wealthier backgrounds can do well.
  • Learning to obey and not question authority figures – such as a teacher in a classroom – might mean that students are taught and conditioned to follow instructions without asking questions or thinking about what they are being told for the rest of their lives.
  • The hidden curriculum can often mean that children are taught to accept their teacher’s views and opinions. Teachers are important authority figures in a child’s life, and they see an excellent deal; this means they can seriously affect a student’s beliefs and actions.
  • Because of the unwritten nature of the hidden curriculum, it can be challenging to make changes when needed. In addition, unlike the formal curriculum, which can be read and examined, the hidden curriculum may not be apparent or easy to understand.
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