In this paper, I will discuss the application of Maturana and Varela’s theories of autopoiesis, cognition and language to the notions of worldview, worldview change and curriculum design. The context for this discussion is the education of systems concepts, thinking and practice. It has been argued that systemic thinking requires the adoption of particular assumptions into the worldview of the student, independent of the systems concepts under study. This raises the question of how best to structure a curriculum to meet this end. It will be argued that autopoietic theory, when applied to systems education has significant implications for curriculum design.
Traditional analyses of education are subject centered. Education is either viewed from the perspective of the educator (teaching, parenting) or from that of the pupil (learning, child development). These analyses do not facilitate the study of education as a social phenomenon. This paper aims for the clarification of the ‘conditio socialis’ of education. It highlights the autonomy of social systems vis-à-vis their environment. Communication is described as the constitutive element of social systems. Education is analyzed as a process within which a double system-reference comes into play, viz. to social systems and to human beings. The structure of education is analyzed in the context of this interaction between social systems and human beings. In this context, the improbability of successful education comes to the fore.