Knowledge and curriculum: Curriculum integration in Portugal - a socio-historical approach

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From the 1990s onwards, and with the recent European curriculum autonomy policies, curriculum integration has increasingly been included into curriculum policy agendas. The dimensions of curriculum integration were conceived from the origin of curriculum theory. However, it would fall upon the Sociology of Education in England to develop one of the most detailed analyses of the concept in the 1970s (Beane, 1997). Michael Young (1971, 1998) and Basil Bernstein (1971, 2003) analysed the implications of organising the curriculum according to isolated subjects and ended up suggesting the concept of curriculum integration. We start by asking two key questions: How have curriculum policies in Portugal introduced dimensions and modalities of curriculum integration? How effective are these policies when implemented in schools? This chapter aims to provide a socio-historical analysis of curriculum policies expressed in curriculum reforms or reorganisations concerning elementar education that have incorporated dimensions of curriculum
integration in Portugal since Roberto Carneiro’s Curriculum Reform (1989-1990) to the current curriculum flexibility policies (2016-2018). We have favoured a qualitative methodology based on the documentary analysis of curriculum policy regulations and evaluation studies of the respective policies. We have found that curriculum integration exists mainly in two dimensions: (a) for formative dimensions, i.e., ‘social integration’, and (b) towards the connection between
subjects, i.e., ‘integration of knowledge’. These two dimensions are often associated either with each other or with the different curriculum solutions found. The areas of the ‘integration of knowledge’ dimension have characterised the Roberto Carneiro Reform from the outset, but their implementation has been very deficient. One of the obstacles to this dimension of curriculum integration is the link between the so-called integrating areas and the subjects with a mobilisation rather than an addition rationale – an aspect that, in the Portuguese case, stems largely from the difficulty of the subject-based organisational structure to accommodate these areas of curriculum. This is partly due to the fact that the integrating areas are conceived in the curriculum separate of subject areas as if the integration of knowledge had its own curriculum space standing apart from the subjects. The curriculum reorganisation created by the recent curriculum autonomy policies (2016-2018) has unblushingly reversed this rationale, establishing the ‘integration of knowledge’ in the ‘sacred’ space of traditional academic subjects.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCurriculum autonomy policies
Subtitle of host publicationinternational trends, tensions and transformations
EditorsSílvia de Almeida, Francisco Sousa, Maria Figueiredo
Place of PublicationLisbon
PublisherCICS.NOVA - Interdisciplinary Centre of Social Sciences, School of Social Sciences and Humanities, NOVA University Lisbon
Number of pages22
ISBN (Print)978-989-97344-6-3
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • Curriculum policy
  • Curriculum knowledge
  • Curriculum integration
  • Sociology of educationS
  • Critical curriculum theory


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