The Real Difference between Curriculum and Syllabus

Close your eyes and imagine a school, college, or university. What pops up in your mind? Of course, classes, teachers, examinations, syllabus, and curriculum are the most common words we can associate with our education. However, while most educational words are easy to understand, the syllabus and curriculum aren’t so.

Most people think curriculum and syllabus are the same. That’s a misconception most people carries throughout their life. Thus, we will show you the difference between curriculum and syllabus. It will help you know their purposes in an educational institution.

The syllabus is mainly associated with a particular subject in a specific class. On the other side, curriculum refers to multiple syllabuses of an entire class with specific instructions. A syllabus also refers to a summary of a subject for students. One syllabus isn’t related to another. However, the curriculum consists of multiple syllabuses and is prepared by a governing body.

difference between curriculum and syllabus
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What Is A Syllabus?

A syllabus is long documentation of a particular subject or topic. It includes everything the teacher will teach students on a particular subject. Also, it gets the guideline from the institutional or national curriculum authority.

Teachers will prepare the syllabus based on the curriculum to match exam topics. A syllabus contains multiple chapters of a subject, its timeline, and teaching pattern. Many say that a syllabus is the practical implementation of a curriculum that is much more conceptual.

What Is A Curriculum?

A curriculum refers to a guideline of the entire academic content. It is the guideline for teachers of all the subjects. All teachers follow the curriculum and its guideline to prepare the syllabus for teaching in their class.

Curriculum also sets goals for each academic year that students should earn after completing their syllabus. So, it includes a theoretical and conceptual framework. Plus, the curriculum also controls how the teacher will deliver his lectures.

A curriculum mainly includes detailed teaching plans, methods, assessment systems, guidelines, etc. It even discusses the physical and mental activities of the students to propel their mental and physical health. So, the curriculum offers a more holistic approach than the syllabus.

Top Difference between Curriculum and Syllabus

When you look at any educational institution, you will see the two most talked about topics, syllabus and curriculum. While most people think that these are similar, that’s not true. The next few key points will show the differences between syllabus and curriculum.

Holistic vs. Specific:

The curriculum is a holistic and general approach. On the contrary, the syllabus offers a specific approach. When you look at any syllabus, you will only see its focus on a specific subject, content, and topic. The syllabus will instruct the teacher on what topic they will teach from the entire subject.

specific subject and topics
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For instance, if a course has 19 chapters, the syllabus will say which chapters the teacher will teach in the class. It will also divide the chapters into multiple sub-sections, and teachers may omit minor topics and sub-sections within a subject. The teacher prepares the syllabus to meet the goal of the class curriculum.

A curriculum is a broader and more general guideline in contrast to the syllabus. It doesn’t cover what teachers will teach in the classroom only. It will regulate the entire teaching system of the institution. For instance, a curriculum will guide the teachers and authorities simultaneously.

Mandatory vs. Optional:

Another key difference between syllabus and curriculum is seen in their implementation. The curriculum is mandatory for all educational institutions. Also, it is accepted globally and nationally. However, the syllabus isn’t mandatory for all institutes and courses.

A teacher may or may not provide the syllabus for the students. Nonetheless, the teacher must follow the curriculum to meet its goals. You will see governments in most countries regulate the curriculum at different stages of the educational system.

Expertise vs. General:

The curriculum is often prepared by experts in educational sectors and specific courses. Thus, you will see the governing body prepare the curriculum. In universities, a curriculum results from a deeper discussion, long-term analysis, and future goals.

On the contrary, a teacher will prepare the syllabus following the instructions of their institutional curriculum. So, it takes a general approach and guidelines. Preparing a syllabus doesn’t need deeper discussion and analysis.

Flexibility vs. Rigidity:

A syllabus offers more flexibility than a curriculum. The teacher has the luxury to add or subtract anything in his course. He may change the lesson plans, increase or decrease the chapters, or add another point. Henceforth, he enjoys excellent flexibility in designing the syllabus.

The curriculum is rigid. When the government on the national stage or institution in their region wants to change the curriculum, it takes a longer time. It needs approval from experts in the sectors, discussion with many teachers, practical implementation, etc.

Read: Tips to start higher education successfully

For whom is it built?

A curriculum focuses on both students and teachers. It will tell the teachers how to prepare the lessons and what to include and exclude. Plus, it also guides the teachers to achieve different learning goals for the students at a particular level.

The syllabus, on the other end, is designed for students. The teachers follow their curriculum to design the syllabus. Also, they have full control over it and aim it for students.

Long-term vs. Short-term goals:

The syllabus is designed to achieve short-term goals for the students. But, the curriculum looks for long-term goals and is divided into many short-term achievements.

For instance, a syllabus will decide what chapters a student will learn in its first or second semester. On the contrary, the curriculum will control the entire outcome of the degree program.

For instance, the preschool curriculum focuses on the student’s ability to communicate after the course completion. But syllabus will tell what teachers should include in the subject to achieve the communicational competency of the students.

Syllabus Vs Curriculum: Comparison Chart

It defines particular goals, lesson plans, class schedules, activities, etc.Curriculum refers to teaching and learning methodology, complete study material, program design, etc.
The syllabus focuses on narrower points and short-term goals.A curriculum is a general, holistic and long-term approach.
Teachers will prepare the specific syllabus for their subjects.A curriculum is prepared by the higher authority of a university or educational wing of the government.
The syllabus will differ from one teacher to another, from one subject to another, and even regions.The curriculum remains the same for all subjects within an institution or a country.
Teachers can easily alter or change the subjects.The curriculum is almost fixed, with little scope for changes through long-term implementation.
The syllabus offers a practical approach to the conceptual framework of the curriculum.The curriculum is more of a theoretical approach compared to the syllabus.
It is a Latin word that derives from “List.”The curriculum is a Greek word.

In Conclusion

There’re many differences between curriculum and syllabus. Usually, teachers and the exam board will prepare the syllabus, which is easily changeable. But, the curriculum is prepared by the governing body of a school, college, or university. It isn’t easily changeable.

The curriculum aims to improve the students over a specific period. But the syllabus is short-term. The combination of both syllabus and curriculum will help achieve the educational goal. is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to