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Difference Between Curriculum and Syllabus: What You Need to Know

Difference Between Curriculum and Syllabus: What You Need to Know

The Fundamental difference between curriculum and syllabus explains the scope of both these widely used terms in the education system. In this write-up, we will cover the major aspects of these key differences. And see how these two shape the entire design of an institution. And contribute to the quality of our instructional delivery.

In a particular program/course, both syllabus and curriculum are integral parts that determine the process of knowledge acquisition. In the present times, the scope of our educational designs is quite wide. Because it aims at skill-building. And prepares students for productive adulthood along with the qualities for global citizenship.

Read on.

What is Syllabus?

The definition of the word ‘syllabus’ or the syllabi meaning is generally related to the list of all topics/content/books etc. that are intended to be studied during a course. In other words, we can also define syllabus as the total outline that defines the goals of an entire course/program/instructional practice.

How Do Teachers/Stakeholders Use Syllabus?

Teachers/stakeholders play a critical role in cascading the topics/lessons/components of a syllabus. In fact, the dissemination of all information and the lesson planning is based on the portions of the syllabus (intended to be covered). For our of teachers, syllabi meaning and lesson planning vary to a great extent. As a matter of fact, a teacher’s expertise, creativity, use of online resources (like in online schools/classes), etc. adds a personal touch to the process.

The greatest advantage of a syllabus is that it is highly adjustable as per the needs of the target group.

The use of syllabus is not limited to the teachers alone. Because they define syllabus as per their own understanding and requirements. And the same also affects the students, helping them to know all that is expected of them.

In the recent times of the global pandemic, the gaps in our education system are highlighted like never before. When we define syllabus in the present times, there is an urgent need to respond to the 21st century pedagogical demands (the need of future jobs) as well.

What are the Needs of the Future Jobs?

An interesting report states the segregation between machine and human performance.

  • 34% of the business tasks are performed by machines
  • 66% of these are carried out by humans.

Do you know that the ‘Jobs of the future’ will be quite different from the ones that we see today?


It is believed that future jobs will be quite different from the ones that are in demand today. In fact, many of these jobs are yet to be created in the world.

As a progressive nation, India’s National Policy of Education 2020, readily acknowledges all these needs. And it focuses on altering teaching methods, and learning processes for 21st-century skill-building in students.

Now that we have discussed what is syllabus, let’s move on and define curriculum.

What is a Curriculum?

The term curriculum refers to the sum total of all learning experiences that are arranged in a structured way for defined learning outcomes. In other words, we can also understand that curriculum (or the plural, curricula) is the plan or the action including the methods of instructional delivery for the best learning experiences.

Who Creates the School Curriculum in India?

In India, we are on the verge of replacing the current National Curriculum Framework (NCF 2005). The new NCF will be a joint work by the Ministry of Education, India, and the NCERT (National Council of Educational Research and Training).

Let’s discuss the difference between curriculum and syllabus in the next section.

Difference between Curriculum and Syllabus?

The table below covers the major curriculum and syllabus difference under some common segregations:


* To engage students in their learning process
* Promotes understanding of global issues
* Supports the development of new-age skills

* Creates an outline for educators/stakeholders to understand the subject matter

* Helps in setting expectations and goals for the learning process
Scope* Covers all domains of holistic development

* To inculcate a strong sense of nationalism

* Deals with all academic pedagogies, methodologies, instructional tools, etc.
* Deals with the contents of subjects/disciplines

* The process of transmitting knowledge

* Is limited to the subjects and their specific topics/concepts etc.
Duration*Continues till the entire program/ course/instructional delivery*Ends with the particular academic year
Flexibility* Not much scope for changes after it is set*This can vary from teacher to teacher
Changes* Is often set by the policymakers through the framework*Depends on the board followed by the school
Impact*Affects the entire educational experience *Affects the course-related learning outcomes

After this detailed difference between curriculum and syllabus, let’s discuss some more aspects that boil down to our textbook contents.

Relationship between Curriculum, Syllabus, and Textbook

By far we managed to define curriculum. Coming to the relationship between the curriculum, syllabus, and textbook. A curriculum encompasses all the educational practices that we need to meet our instructional goals. Further, a syllabus is a short explanation of the topics that we have to cover in a particular duration. A textbook is a tool that has all the content in printed form for the teacher to teach and the students to follow.

To understand the broad aims of the curriculum and the components of the textbook, we can refer to the syllabus for a clear outline.

Final Thoughts

The curriculum and syllabus difference helps us to understand the scope and goals of our educational design. Today, our nation is readily embracing changes like online schooling, virtual classes, hybrid learning, and blended models to find solutions to the existing problems within the system.

Let’s hope that our upcoming designs of syllabus and curriculum help us to meet the pedagogical demands of the 21st century. And eventually, we are more successful in empowering our students in this age of knowledge construction and experiential learning!

Thanks for Reading!

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is curriculum and syllabus design?
    A syllabus and curriculum design is systematic educational planning with instructional blocks to meet the desired learning goals.
  • How can we define curriculum in simple terms?
    A curriculum refers to all the educational experiences that a student undergoes throughout the duration of specific processes. 
  • What is the difference between curriculum and syllabus?
    There are various differences between syllabus and curriculum in terms of their respective scope, expectation settings, domains covered, creators, framework, and impact on the educational framework. Broadly, a curriculum is a wider term that covers all aspects.

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