Co-curricular activities in schools
The term curriculum refers to the programme of study in various academic subjects (e.g Maths, English, History, Science, Spanish) followed by students at various levels of education. The school or college’s teaching staff are employed to teach this curriculum, and students are periodically assessed (e.g. by exams and term papers) in their progress in each curriculum subject. As they grow older, students’ achievements in their curriculum subjects are seen as important in helping them get into a good university or college, and to find a good job when they leave education. Depending on which country you are in, schools and colleges may also be held accountable for their students’ results in the curriculum subjects.
The academic curriculum has never been all that schools and colleges offer to their students. Often a range of other classes, clubs and activities is available to students, sometimes in lessons but more often in the lunch break or after school. These are referred to as the co-curriculum, or as extra-curricular activities, and they are mostly voluntary for students. Examples would include sports, musical activities, debate, Model United Nations, community service, religious study groups, charitable fundraising, Young Enterprise projects, military cadet activities, drama, science clubs, and hobbies such as gardening, crafts, cookery and dance. Because they are not examined in the same way that the academic curriculum is, and because most of them take place outside lessons, such activities have less status in education than the main curriculum. However, they are often held to be very important to the wider education of young men and women. This topic examines whether the co-curriculum should be given more importance in schools and colleges – maybe by giving academic credits for co-curricular activities.
A distinction could be made between co-curricular and extra-curricular activities, although most of the time they are used to mean the same thing. The co-curriculum is sometimes seen as a non-academic, but formal part of education, with timetabled and compulsory sessions for all students – each student may get to choose what co-curricular activity they wish to pursue, but they are required to follow at least one. Staff are required to run co-curricular activities as part of their contract, and the co-curriculum is generally well-funded. This kind of co-curriculum can be seen in Singapore’s education system and also in private schools (especially boarding schools) in countries like the UK, the USA and Australia. By contrast, extra-curricular activities are less well organised and funded, being entirely voluntary for students and taking place outside the school timetable. School staff may be involved in running extra-curricular activities, but there is no obligation on them to do so and they do not normally receive extra pay for it. Clubs and societies in many UK and American state schools fit this definition, as do non-academic activities in most universities and colleges throughout the world. The arguments which follow can be used to fit either or both definitions.
by Daniel Nesan.