Moving towards an enhanced curriculum in the 21st century

There is a need for a curriculum, which is able to use a concept to integrate content, knowledge, and skills from multiple subject areas, offer several activity choices, and extend relevant learning beyond the classroom into real-life situations.

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Designing an enriched curriculum for the education system in the third decade of the 21st century that prepares students to compete favourably is an issue that has attracted attention in recent times. Schools are now expected to amalgamate curricular studies, incidental and experiential activities, and focussed guidance in order to provide students with an array of experiences that would allow them to make appropriate decisions in their academic as well as social lives.

Need of the hour…

As students are constantly grappling with the changing times, they must be equipped to understand themselves as individuals and allowed to develop to their fullest potential. This can be achieved only when the curriculum is able to use a concept to integrate content, knowledge, and skills from multiple subject areas, offer several activity choices, and extend relevant learning beyond the classroom into real-life situations.

Extracurricular activities…

By definition, extracurricular activities are experiential, hands-on, and action oriented. They are extensions of the coursework or are peripheral to it. And they are often used to consolidate learning among students. They include activities such as sport, media related activities (including watching television, listening to music, play computer games, reading), performance activities (such as music, dance, and drama), and community service activities (such as volunteer work).

Henry and Costantino (2015) and Metsäpelto and Pulkkinen (2012) present extracurricular activities as outside activities that are used to enrich the curriculum, provide opportunities for participants to develop specific skills or knowledge, and take place outside of school hours.

Importance of extracurricular activities…

Many students thrive on activities outside of the classroom setting. These activities sculpt the students’ personalities, improve their academic performances, broaden their perspectives, increase their social opportunities, and help them take productive breaks.

Extracurricular activities have seen an upsurge in the 21st century because such activities are instrumental for enhancing the creativity, productivity, and well-being of students. Since life in this day and age has become multicultural and interconnected, students need a repertoire of skills to survive and later become employable. There is no single widely-accepted definition of ‘21st Century skills’. According to Silva (2009), there are hundreds of descriptors of the skills set, including life skills, workforce skills, interpersonal skills, applied skills, and non-cognitive skills.

Essential 21st century skills…

Essential 21st century skills include creativity and innovation skills, communication and collaboration skills, critical thinking and problem-solving skills, information literacy, flexibility, leadership, and social and cross-cultural skills to put down a few. These skills also need to be inculcated in the students as they focus on what students can do with knowledge rather than the knowledge itself. According to Bernie Trilling and Charles Fadel, authors of 21st Century Skills: Learning for Life in Our Times, 21st century skills reflect the idea that “the world has changed so fundamentally in the last few decades that the roles of learning and education in day-to-day living have also changed forever.”

Impact on students…

Out-of-class activities have an impact of all domains of life such as cognitive, social, moral, aesthetic, cultural, and emotional. Moreover, they are inextricably linked to the students’ future studies and further employment opportunities. They have positive repercussions on their University applications and also make their resumes stand out.

Different levels of involvements in activities and enthusiastic participation have positive impacts on those students who participate. Research has indicated that both the type of extracurricular programs and level of participation may impact the individuals’ development (Eccles, 2003).

Stringing the same views, CBSE has tabled the proposal to integrate arts with the teaching and learning process. The knowledge of arts, it is acknowledged, needs to be propagated through experiential learning and relegation of arts to the realm of extra-curricular has to be stopped. The proposed steps will be introduced from the new academic session. The integration of art will be carried out with the teaching-learning of all academic subjects from class 1 to 12.

It is imperative that students be given a wide range of opportunities for meaningful participation in extracurricular activities within the community. Teachers, students, parents, and the government must ensure that environments are created so that students may develop an artistic perception, stimulate their creative thinking skills, release their imagination, engage their emotions, foster their historical and cultural understanding, and awaken their senses.

Extracurricular activities can be used to encourage students learn to trust one another, take risks, become part of a larger community, learn to interact more effectively with their peers, form a deeper and more sophisticated sense of creativity. Thus, the integration of academics and extracurricular activities is important in today’s day and age. Schools across the globe are recognising the need to adapt their academic systems from a simple transfer of knowledge to real-world application of the same. This is achieved through introducing new models of assessment, collaborating with subject matter experts, embedding 21st century core competencies, project-based learning, and offering additional courses to students beyond their coursework. For instance, Singapore’s goals for its students are that its students become independent thinking individuals, active contributors, confident, self-directed learners,and concerned citizens.These constructs have now been integrated across curriculum areas through teaching and learning guides and syllabi, schools and classrooms have been redesigned to promote more student-centred pedagogy, and a significant expansion of arts and co-curricular activities has taken place as part of character building and education on world citizenship.

On a concluding note…

Our world is going through a time of rapid and unprecedented change. The kinds of issues that society faces today have also become complex and interrelated. These problems can be tackled only by a new kind of leadership which has the potential to collaborate across disciplines, departments, and organisations to search for innovative and systematic solutions. The leadership capacity of such a kind can only be built through consistent efforts of the students of today, who are the young change-makers, equipped with the necessary knowledge and skills to disrupt existing systems and design adaptive institutions in order to create a just and sustainable world.


By definition, extracurricular activities are experiential, hands-on, and action oriented. They are extensions of the coursework or are peripheral to it. And they are often used to consolidate learning among students.


Extracurricular activities can be used to encourage students learn to trust one another, take risks, become part of a larger community, learn to interact more effectively with their peers, form a deeper and more sophisticated sense of creativity.


Out-of-class activities have an impact of all domains of life such as cognitive, social, moral, aesthetic, cultural, and emotional. Moreover, they are inextricably linked to the students’ future studies and further employment opportunities.

Sanjhee Gianchandani holds a Masters’ degree in English Literature from Lady Shri Ram College for Women. She is a CELTA certified ESL trainer and works as a content developer and editor for Academic English textbooks.