Selection, sequencing and progression of content in biology in four diverse jurisdictions




curriculum, biology, powerful knowledge, content selection, content progression


Selection of content for a school syllabus is important in achieving progress towards inclusive generalisations which characterise powerful knowledge. Biology as a discipline progresses from knowledge of individual facts to inclusive generalisations such as homeostasis, energy transformations, heredity, and evolution. The present study evaluated the selection of content in the official biology syllabus for the seventh and eighth years of schooling in four diverse jurisdictions: Kenya, South Africa, British Columbia (Canada) and Singapore. The purpose was to determine whether and how content selection enabled progression to inclusive generalisations in biology and to compare selection, sequencing and progression among the four jurisdictions. General Topic Trace Mapping was used to compare each syllabus to a generic reference syllabus structured according to inclusive generalisations. Although there was some agreement in the scope of topics selected, jurisdictions varied in the way it was organised. Kenya included more everyday knowledge than other jurisdictions. British Columbia and Singapore selected content according to unifying themes, whereas South Africa and Kenya did not. South Africa selected content that enabled progression towards inclusive generalisations, but did not explicitly identify the generalisations. This study supports the contention that powerful knowledge in biology may be construed differently in diverse jurisdictions.


Recent curriculum developments have favoured choice of content for school subjects that enables students to progress towards powerful knowledge. The current study provides evidence of variation in selection, sequencing and progression towards powerful knowledge in the biology syllabi of four jurisdictions: Kenya, South Africa, British Columbia (Canada) and Singapore. British Columbian and Singaporean syllabi explicitly identify unifying themes and organise content according to those themes, whereas South African and Kenyan syllabi lack explicit unifying themes.

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How to Cite

Dempster, E. R. (2024). Selection, sequencing and progression of content in biology in four diverse jurisdictions. South African Journal of Science, 120(3/4).



Research Article