This Review deals with the structure and contents of the curriculum, together with curriculum delivery, including time spent on teaching and learning, the relationship between school structures and the curriculum on offer as well as teaching. It also deals with assessment. The section on assessment discusses the purposes of assessment, its timing and methods, as well as the roles and responsibilities of those involved. Decisions about approaches to the curriculum and assessment are closely linked to how many teachers there are, their knowledge and skills, the resources available and quality assurance.
Lessons can be learnt from other systems, but policy-makers must recognise the importance of the differences deriving from culture and history. Not only teachers, but also parents and students may have pre-conceptions about appropriate curricula and assessment systems. The most effective systems also demonstrate that they have taken account of previous achievements in developing their reforms.
Systems also need to take account of their own circumstances, particularly the strength of the education infrastructure and the capabilities of their policy-makers, administrators and school workforce. In systems at the start of an improvement trajectory, there is a greater requirement for prescription and monitoring to ensure accurate and full curriculum delivery, as well as keeping track of the underlying factors affecting opportunity to learn.