There is a confusion over the terms “syllabus” and curriculum” Some specialists assume that these two words are synonymous. But, there are some differences between these two terms concerning their working field. Candlin, a prominent linguist suggests that curriculums are concerned with making general statements about language learning, purpose and experience, evaluation and the role relationship of teachers and learners. They will contain bank of learning items and suggestions about how these might be used in the class. On the other hand syllabuses are more localized, and are based on accounts and records of what actually happens at the class level, as teachers and learners apply a give curriculum to their own situation.
A curriculum of an educational institution can be studied from three main perspectives- (1) identifying students’ needs and goals or “Planning Phase”(2) observing the teaching/ learning process to study how the intentions of the curriculum plans have been implemented in classroom or “Implementation Phase,” (3) Finding out what students have learned and have failed to learn in relation to what had been planned or “Evaluation phase”/ It is important that, in the planning, implementation and evaluation of a given curriculum, all elements be integrated, so that decisions made at one phase are not in conflict with these made at another.
On the other hand, syllabus design concerns the followingL1) whether the content is communicable (2) objectives(goals/ purposes of learning) (3) social belief, (4) practical specification (5) capability of the teacher etc. In developing a language program the above components are essential to be considered in an ideal syllabus.
It is possible to distinguish a broad and a narrow approach to syllabus design. According to the supporters of a narrow view; syllabus design is seen as being concerned essentially with the selection and grading of content, while methodology is concerned with the selection of learning tasks and activities. Thus, the former is concerned with the “WHAT” of curriculum; the latter is concerned with the “HOW” of establishing the curriculum. On the other hand, those who adopt a broader view question this strict separation arguing that with the advent of communicative language teaching the distinction between content and tasks is difficult to sustain.
Therefore, it can be said that traditionally syllabus design has been seen as a subsidiary component of curriculum design. In brief, the distinction between the two is that, curriculum is a very general concept which involves consideration of the whole complex of philosophical, social and administrative factors which contribute to the planning of an educational program, implementation and evaluation.
Syllabus on the other hand refers to that subpart of curriculum which is concerned with a specification of what units will be taught.
So, syllabus design is essential concerned with the selection of materials and grading. S. D generally refers to procedures for deciding what will be taught in a language program.
Therefore, curriculum is a larger field while syllabus design is a smaller one. SD focuses more narrowly on the selection of content and grading.