What is 'hidden curriculum'?

Essay by siuwhiteUniversity, Bachelor'sA, May 2003

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'Every school has two curricula. One is the open curriculum, which we are already familiar with. The other curriculum, the hidden one, often has the greatest impact on an adolescent boy or girl. It is the hidden curriculum that molds self-esteem, aids or hinders confident social development, that helps make high school a time of pleasant memories, or turns the high school experience into an ordeal.' (Ruby Ausbrooks, Ed.D.)


The phrase 'hidden curriculum' was coined by Brian Jackson in 1968 to draw attention to the idea that schools do more than simply aid the transmission of knowledge between one generation and the next. The concept of the 'hidden' curriculum is very ambiguous. The hidden curriculum may be viewed as covert, unintended, implicit, or simply unacknowledged. Most sociologists use the term to refer to the various characteristics of schooling that are unquestioned or 'taken for granted'.

Brian Jackson argues that we need to understand "education" as a socialization process.

That is, a process that involves the transmission of norms and values as well as a body of socially approved knowledge. Therefore, the basic idea behind the concept of the hidden curriculum, pupils learn things that are not actually taught in the formal curriculum. If students want to succeed within the education system, have to "learn how to learn". That is, they have to learn to conform not just to the formal rules of the school but also to the informal rules, beliefs and attitudes perpetuated through the socialization process. If we wish to provide pupils with an enriching, positive experience of education, we must be alert to the power of the "hidden curriculum". The hidden curriculum refers to those practices and outcomes of schooling, which, while not explicit in curriculum guides or school policy, nevertheless seem to be a...