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Pandora’s Box- Competency-Based or Traditional?

Should this style of learning be called a Pandora’s box? I think not. For it has survived down from the age of the Gurukul and continues to live on to this date, albeit-scantily. All we need to do as educators is realign ourselves to what we always knew to be the best way of imparting knowledge.

Is calling this style of learning a Pandora’s box befitting? As, like in the said box when opened, out came a myriad of situations that society faced-different and difficult. Similarly, opening this box means making learning more relevant to the 21st century learner, which in turn opens up a whole gamut of learning styles and methods which have to be put into play. A hard ask for the Traditional Educator and Educational Institutions we are all familiar with.

Educators must now necessarily get out of their comfort zones to make learning/education a joy and more relevant to students in the 21st century.

Hence true Competency-Based Education should then be all about the learner and their learning styles. This would further mean that if we are to keep the learner in view, we then have to bring into focus what is needed to improve their understanding of what a 21st century learner must need look like today. These learners would then have to be skilled at collaboration, competition, be social communicators par excellence, computer wizzes, to mention but a few. To equip them in these multifarious skills the need of the hour is a move away from the traditional mode of transacting the curriculum and transitioning to a more skill based and competency-based education pedagogy.

Here let us talk about the Traditional role of imparting education as we know it today. The traditional teaching mode, is a teacher-led classroom with focus on the lecture delivered by the teacher and he/she being the ultimate source of knowledge and problem solver with little to no interaction for the learners themselves. The teacher stood as the symbol of authority and brooked no arguments when it came to a sharing (if one could call it that) of ideas.

Objectives that were set and Assessments carried out were the old tried and tested methods that only evaluated content and ranged from excellent to poor or numerically from zero to hundred without taking into account the different types of learners or their learning style, aptitude, attitude, ability, skill sets or competencies. Is this how we really want knowledge to be imparted or even disseminated to a breed of learners that far surpass the traditional teacher of the past or even the present?

To counter this situation, we must move to a more student friendly way of education- the 21st century competency way; heralding in the age of Competency Based Education.

Therefore, besides the skills and competencies mentioned above, today’s learners must have- not only a working knowledge of, but an above average grasp of 21st century skills and abilities along with being critical and analytical thinkers. All these skills and competencies along with the 4 core skills – Reading, Writing, Speaking and Listening. Knowledge today must be applied rather than just having it.

To attain this level of competency, focus must then be on personalised, self-paced learning with differentiated objectives set, as well as differentiated assessments based on the need of the learner and the topic being taught.

Hence the key features of Competency-Based learning focuses on:

·        Learner-centric/student as the central focus. This would mean learning must be personalised and therefore self-paced.

·        Clear learning objectives and outcomes set and defined at the very onset of the class.

·        Strong focus on differentiated teaching styles and learning based on the needs of the learner.

·        And assessments that include multiple methods of appraisal.

This in turn will lead us to an ecosystem of higher stylistic education catering to the new age learner where the balance is shifted from the teacher playing God in favour of the student who knows how to play the game right in this current real-world scenario.

A graphic representation of the Traditional vs Competency Based Education.


Devyani Kapoor

Devyani Kapoor

Founder & Director
Edudevs School of Inspired Teaching & Learning | Edudevs Knowledge Foundation

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