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CURRICULUM DEVELOPMENT IN MY COUNTRY: Understanding the role of the Curriculum Development Unit in Fiji

                     Author: Reema Alpana


Thaman (2009) defines curriculum as a planned and organized learning experience, generally provided by schools. However, Maha (2009) stresses that the term curriculum is problematic to define due to the different perception educators have about curriculum and how they reflect it.

I personally feel that curriculum is similar to a blueprint of a building; it gives detailed description for the construction to be carried out at the different levels of the developmental process. It is basically designed to suit the needs of its context and purpose i.e. the place where it is being constructed and the purpose it will serve.  Likewise, curriculum developers design curriculum which is relevant to the student’s context as well as purpose i.e. what the subject aims to teach. Whereas, the construction at each level in the “blueprint theory” would represent the various level/form or grade being taught. Hence, it is definitive to state that having a suitably planned curriculum is a vital component of the learning-teaching process.

Thus, in this essay, I aim to identify the overall organization of the Curriculum Development Unit (CDU) in the Fiji Islands, its role, together with its recent and current curriculum development projects. Furthermore, I will highlight the problems and challenges faced by the CDU staff and finally provide a brief conclusion to sum up my findings about Fiji’s CDU.

The organization of the CDU

The CDU located at Waisomo House, Thurston Street, Suva. It is comprised of the Principal Education Officer (PEO) and the Primary Curriculum Officers (SEOs and EOS) for the different subject areas in Primary as well as Secondary teaching level except Technical Vocational Educational and Training subjects (Sigawale, 2013).


The Role of the CDU/ what the CDU does?

The CDU is a branch of the Curriculum Advisory Services (CAS), which is responsible for the facilitation and promotion of quality education and excellence in the teaching and learning of all the subjects offered at the primary and secondary school levels thus ensuring quality and relevant education for all the children in Fiji Islands. The CDU is the primary body responsible for the development and evaluation of the School Curricula from Early Childhood Education (ECE) to Form 7 level. It is also responsible for the mounting of the in-service courses for teachers, upgrading their skills on the curriculum content and teaching and learning methods (Sigawale, 2013).  In addition to this role, it also carries out school visits to provide professional advice and assistance to teachers as well as assist in the preparation of classroom and national assessment works, such as External Exams (Sigawale, 2013).


Recent and current curriculum development projects

According to Sigawale (2013) the recent and current curriculum development projects includes the following;


  • Citizenship Education Project
  • Family Life Education Project
  • National Curriculum Framework
  • New Assessment Framework
  • Financial Education
  • Literacy
  • Numeracy
  • Climate change


All the above projects are incorporated into the respective curriculum areas for both primary and secondary levels except the Family Life Education whereby there is an officer that is entirely responsible for the implementation of Family Life Education in the curriculum (Sigawale, 2013).


Major problems or challenges faced by the CDU staff

Planning and upgrading curriculum could become a hectic process at times; this is because it requires the curriculum to be inclusive of all recent issues and transformations in the society and the country at large i.e. it shall include issues, such as global climate change, information and communications technology (ICT), gender based equality and so forth.

Sigawale (2013) claims that while attempting to make curriculum fair for all i.e. regardless the culture, background and ethnicity the CDU is faced with numerous challenges. Some of the apparent challenges include;

  • High Staff Turn-over:  This is either due to officer retirement or they are offered better jobs offer from elsewhere, such as in other public or private sectors.
  • Lack of Training: May new staffs do not hold any prior knowledge or experience about Curriculum Development and it’s fundamentals as they join the unit straight from School. Thus, this slows down the operation of the unit since these new appointee learn on the job.
  • Multiple roles: Many CDU officers are faced with the challenge of playing multiple roles i.e. their job requires them to more than just upgrading the curriculum.



Based on the evidences provided herein, it is clear to me that the curriculum development and upgrading process is a key component of the school system. As discussed, it may turn out to be quiet challenging at times; nevertheless its enforcements are often reflected at community/society level i.e. it strongly contributes towards the shaping of individuals in terms of their values, belief, behaviour, discipline, understanding and knowledge.

Moreover, it is advisable to state that in order to avoid the challenges and problems faced by the CDU (as mentioned above); it should provide regular workshops (such as twice a month) for its staff on the curriculum development process as well as provide their staff with the opportunity to pursue further studies (such as overseas training) on curriculum related studies, attend seminars on current education related issues and ensure that their create more employment in the unit to avoid overloading their staff.



Maha, A. (2009). A reflection on the reform and implementation of the parimary curriculum in Papua New Guniea: In K.H Thaman & K. Saga (Eds.), Re-thinking Education Curricula in the Pacific: Challenges and Prospects. (pp.13-14).New Zealand: He Parekereke Institute for Research and Development in Maori and Pacific Education.

Sigawale, L. (2013). The Curriculum Development Unit: Handout given at one-one meeting, Suva, Fiji Islands.

Thaman, K.H. (2009). Introduction: the need to re-think Pacific curriculum. In K.H Thaman & K. Saga (Eds.), Re-thinking Education Curricula in the Pacific: Challenges and Prospects. (pp.13-14).New Zealand: He Parekereke Institute for Research and Development in Maori and Pacific Education.


March 31, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment




Rapid globalization in technologically equipped education has helped tertiary institutes in reaching out to an extensive student population.  Hence, this evolution of the information age has created a paradigm shift in education initially known as distance education, and with technological advancement it has changed into online learning (Kashif, 2002).  Taking the University of the South Pacific’s (USP) online mode of studies into consideration, “…it uses a learning management system called Modular Object-Oriented Dynamic Learning Environment (MOODLE) to deliver its course content via the internet”, (USP, 2013).  This tool was designed by Mr. Martin Dougiamas and was aimed to support a social constructionist epistemology of teaching and learning (Dougiamas, 2006).

This educational tool is of great benefit to the USP, since it has enabled the institute to make learning a much needed mobile practice and convenient to a larger student population around its member countries.


However, in some contexts, whereby communication and culture are intertwined, learning in an invisible classroom could become challenging. Such scenario strongly applies in the South Pacific societies particularly the USP member countries where culture is regarded as their way of life and hence shapes their value system which is inclusive of their teaching, learning and dialogue style.  “Definitely, no education is culture free and no culture is free from its key values”, (Alpana, 2013).  Thus, it could be said that since the MOODLE platform was not designed in the South Pacific region, it would have been designed in relations to the culture and value system of its original context.


Many at a time, the values of students from different cultural background are contradictory and hence this ignites numerous learning discomforts.  For instance, in some cultures such as that of the Fijians, body gestures are constantly used while sharing dialogue, particularly with people of a different culture (Kedrayate, 2012). This is basically done to make the conversation more descriptive and objectified and hence make the flow of ideas less vague.  Thus, students with such cultural background are challenged when it comes to online communication.  Hence, such aspects tend to underline online learning as a culturally undemocratic practice.  Therefore, this research will attempt to get students’ views whether learning via Moodle at USP being culturally democratic or not?


Moreover, upon going through numerous relevant literature it was revealed that cultural biases are present in online learning and the common underpinnings of these cultural constraints are mainly, student’s  background and learning approach, gender, ethnicity, student’s language as well as culturally specific vocabulary. Hence, this review of literature will first of all identify some common benefits of the online teaching and learning approach before discussing these underpinnings in greater depth under the Cultural constraints in online the mode of study.  Later on,  underpinnings will be used as the foundation for the construction of a framework for this intended research.




2.2 Benefits of the Online Teaching and Learning Approach


D’NEtto and Hannon (2007) stated that educational institutions have now implemented online learning technologies as part of their growth strategy for the delivery of teaching and learning for domestic and overseas students. Thus, this is beneficial to both parties since it makes learning more accessible to its learners and educators, as well as increases the number of students enrolled in such courses, which means more capital for the institute.

Similarly, there are several other advantages to online learning, such as flexibility in the scheduling of classes and class-related activities by instructors and students, absence of space constraints, and access to education by certain groups.  For example, homemakers, shift workers, travelers, and prisoners etc.  “An online learning environment can also facilitate learner-centered and learning-centered approaches, because students may assume more responsibility for their learning”, (Keegan, 2000; Humphreys & Konomos, 2010).


Moreover, e-learning at the University of the South Pacific has helped our Pacific Island students to step out of their culture of silence.  Thus, this has helped the instructors by enabling them to shape their students into more communicative individuals. In addition to this, student are able to share ideas, and expand their peer network throughout the university’s twelve regional member countries, namely;  Cook Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Niue, Solomon Islands, Tokelau, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu and Samoa.





2.3 Cultural constraints in online the mode of study


i.            Student’s Cultural Background, Language and Learning Approach

In a research carried out by D’NEtto and Hannon (2007) it was revealed that cultural differences affects the student’s participation rate in online learning. This has been supported by other similar research which discovered that “…a collectivist approach to learning was demonstrated by the students from Eastern culture while individualism attributes were shown by students from the Western cultures”, (Liu. X, Liu. S, Lee & Magjuk, 2010). Hence, taking the USP’s students into consideration, MOODLE tends to enforce a more individualized learning approach, since it focuses more on student-centered learning which is contradictory to their communal way of learning. Thus this is a clear demonstration of western attributes being imposed.


Moreover, their study also revealed that for different cultures, the instruction styles are quite different.  That is, the instructions were less structured and more inductive in the United States (U.S) while highly structured and more deductive in the Eastern education structure. Taking the Oceania students into consideration, it is questionable whether the structure of MOODLE supports their needs and instruction style?  And because some of the westernized aspects of teaching and learning are still evident in the school curriculum (Primary and Secondary levels), is it uncertain whether these students’ learning and instruction style is inclined to their informal/cultural aspects or upgraded to that of the western approach?

In addition to this,Liu, Liu, Lee, & Magjuka’s (2010) research has a close link with the focuses of my study as it also investigates the cultural difference and related issues in online learning. However, in this case, the Western Culture acts as the host culture. That is, English is the first language at the University being studied, however this research will attempt to identify the culture based biases and discontinuity in online learning-teaching process whereby the host’s first language is not English.

Similarly, Lanham & Wanlei (2003) pointed out that the designers of online mode of study need to ensure that students from the different cultural backgrounds are not faced with any cultural biases. They claimed that,

“…the simple transfer of text-based information into online courses is not the answer; the materials need to adapt to fit the online environment,” (Lanham & Wanlei (2003).

Hence, it has to be acknowledged that different cultures respond to the online environment with varying degree of acceptance.  Therefore, we need to create a blend between the traditional teaching methods and the newest technologies.   Most of all dissolving cultural boundaries in online learning will only occur if we first know what those boundaries are.


      ii.            Gender and Ethnicity

Furthermore, other possible contributors to the cultural discontinuities in online learning could be gender and ethnicity.  On the contrary, Boyette (2008) strongly disapproves gender and ethnicity to be of any influence to the online mode of study.  Taking the USP member countries into consideration, it can be contradicted that gender plays a major role in their societies.  However, with gender merges numerous roles, responsibilities and taboos (Taufeu‘ulungaki, 2009).  Hence, it can be assumed that these taboos may be a drawback for some web based learners.


Conversely, more research is needed to be done in this aspect to provide strong evidence if gender would be of any influence to the online mode of study at USP.  Likewise, culture is a subset of ethnicity and if culture has an influential role in computer mediated studies then indeed ethnicity will have some contribution in this.  Thus, this intended research will attempt to design a questionnaire which is inclusive of gender and ethnicity related issues in order to scoop the best response and comments from its participants and targeted population.








Description: The figure above shows the possible factors which could contribute towards cultural biases of online mode of study together with its possible limitation


According to (Wilson, 2010), the cultural discontinuities can be divided into various themes which include; worldview, culturally specific vocabulary and concepts, linguistic characteristics of the learner, learner motivation and cognitive patterns, including readinbehaviorur. However, his framework fails to acknowledge the possible limitations such as students’ experiences with technology (computer), their knowledge about other cultures and most importantly their attitude towards their studies particularly the course enrolled in together with their efficacy in managing their time properly while studying independently online.

Thus, It is believed that the modified framework provided above would yield better and more reliable results and indeed help in identifying whether using  MOODLE as an online learning tool at the USP is a culturally undemocratic practice or not?




The introduction of a technologically equipped learning method (e-learning) has aroused numerous questions in regards to its competence.  To no surprise, cultural constraints in such a mode of study are one of them.  Upon critically analyzing a few related literatures, it was seen that the majority of the research findings has revealed online mode of study as a culturally undemocratic practice.


Hence, some crosscutting themes identified by the researchers which is understood  to have a major contribution towards online learning being culturally bias include; worldview, culturally specific vocabulary and concepts, linguistic characteristics of the learner, learner motivation and cognitive patterns, including reading behaviour etc. Thus, many researcher feel that despite their attempts in getting in-depth knowledge about culturally discontinuity in online modes of study, numerous loopholes still remain and hence, more research needs to be carried out in order to assist curriculum/course designers and administrators in designing a fair course for “all” student.

Therefore, it can be said that a survey method with the modified research framework as well as a much detailed questionnaire might be able to contribute towards boosting the reliability of the date obtained from intended research and most of all yield much valid result.





Alpana, R. (2013, April 9). Curriculum Mapping ; A critical analysis of the Fifth form Biology content in relation to the Pacific Knowledge and Value System. ED455 Assignment Two . Suva: USP.

Boyette, M. A. (2008). An Investigation of the Online Learning Environment in Higher Education through the Observations and Perceptions of Students of Color. Florida: The University of South Florida.

Darling, S. (2009). Help Guide. Retrieved April 18, 2012, from http://www.helpguide.org/mental/drug_substance_addiction_signs_effects_treatment.htm

Dougiamas, M. (2006). Martin Dougiamas. Retrieved from http://moodle.udec.ntu-kpi.kiev.ua/martin_dougiamas.html

Giddings, L. S., & Grant, B. M. (2006). Mixed methods research for the novoice researcher. Contemporary Nurse , 4-6.

Humphreys, A. H., & Konomos, P. (2010, August). Student Perspectives on Campus-based Versus Online Courses. Retrieved from International Journal of Intstructional Technology and Distant Education: http://www.itdl.org/Journal/Aug_10/article03.htm

Kashif, S. (2002). A comparison of online learning: Perceptions of Indian and American graduate students. Udini, Educational Journal .

Kedrayate, D. A. (2012). Non-Formal Education: Is It Relevant or Obsolete? International Journal of Business, Humanities and Technology , 1.

Leedy, P. D., & Ormord, J. E. (2010). Practical Research; Planning and Design. Pearson Eudcational International.

Liu, X., Liu, S., Lee, S.-h., & Magjuka, R. J. (2010). Cultural Differences in Online Learning: International Student Perceptions. Educational Technology & Society , 13 (3), 177–188.

Rowlings, J. (2004). Peer Education and its Importance. New York: Suny Press.

Taufeu‘ulungaki, A. (2009). Vernacular Lanigages and classroom interaction in the Pacific. In K. Thaman, Educational Ideas From Ocenia; Selected readings. Second Edition (pp. 17-18). Suva: Institue of Education, University of the South Pacific.

Thaman, K. (2013). Re-thinking the Pacific School Curriculum.

USP. (2013, January 29). Course Design and Development. Retrieved from The University of the South Pacific: http://www.usp.ac.fj/index.php?id=7729

Wilson, M. S. (2010). Cultural consideration in online instruction and learning. Distance Education , 52.



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