What are elements of the hidden curriculum?

What are elements of the hidden curriculum?

The Hidden Curriculum from Functionalist & Conflict Perspectives

Hidden curriculum refers to implicit lessons which are often a byproduct of education or as a hidden agenda. Hidden curriculum can be seen as the transmission of "assumptions and expectations that are not formally communicated, established, or conveyed within the learning environment" (Alsubaie, 2015). In contrast to the byproduct of education, hidden curriculum can also be a form of hidden agenda. While a hidden agenda sounds ominous, the manifesting of values can be subtle, with teachers lacking awareness of their transmission. For instance, when teachers are faced with discussing religion as subject matter, often personal beliefs and biases can occur. If a teacher is a Christian, their worldview is shaped by this belief and discussions of other religions may contain biases that the teacher believes true (ADL, 2021). Whether hidden curriculum is a byproduct or hidden agenda, the effect is the same, imparting ideas that are not part of the curriculum.   

Complicating hidden curriculum further is the effect of this curriculum on society. In accordance with Structural functionalism, in general, society is seen in terms of an entity trying to reach equilibrium and maintain order with education serving a vital role in achieving these ends. Depending upon the theorist in question, functionalism defines hidden curriculum's manifestation. Weber, in the The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism discusses how capitalism was founded on Protestant religion and as such these beliefs become embedded in institutions as values. The concept of earning becomes a value or virtue and can be transmitted through hidden curriculum.

Without doubt, religion in general, impacted the development of education, still seen today in controversies and schools formed under religious beliefs, e.g. Catholic private schools. With this example and Weber's view in mind, consider Education's radical shift in the last thirty years, focusing on increasing demands for certain career fields such as computer science. This shift represents education adapting to society or to economic demands, but the implicit curriculum clearly shows the value of technology work over liberal studies. While this value on occupation may be well-intended to meet society's work demands, this curriculum teaches students that some careers are more intrinsically valuable than others, thus promulgating biases about work or helping to stratify society into social classes. Working class members of society achieve less in the education system for a variety of reasons and as a result of many factors outside their control, they can be forced into jobs deemed less valuable such as labor.

Different theorists view hidden curriculum's elements from their perspectives such as conflict theory viewing hidden curriculum as a means of resource control. For example, most teachers by virtue of the fact that they went to college most likely came from families which could afford higher education. This means that most teachers are middle and upper class by virtue of economic standing. These teachers experienced education from this standpoint and as a result assume that students understand and experience education in the same manner that they did complete with middle class values which impact how students perceive the world.

An example of this bias can be seen in how many people view education from the standpoint that parents should have an active role in the child’s education, which is defined by a middle class view which often allows for more time spent involved with schools. For the lower economic class this abundance of time often does not exist due to the need to work more hours. What teachers often perceive as a lack of attentiveness to a child's education is often a demand of work for the parent. Within the conflict perspective resource control is reinforced by higher classes since teachers are more inclined to give support to middle class and above children seeing them as a better allocation of teaching capacity since their parents are involved. This allocation of education resource contains the hidden curriculum that some students are more deserving of help than others, thus reinforcing classism.



ADL (2021) Religion in the Curriculum

Alsubaie (2015). Hidden Curriculum as One of Current Issue of Curriculum

Max Weber (1905). The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism

Photo by John-Mark Smith on Unsplash

Updated: 10/08/2021


Triola Vincent. Thu, Jan 28, 2021. What are elements of the hidden curriculum? Retrieved from

Need similar articles?

Back to: Ten Years of Academic Writing