The Rise Of Competency-Based Learning In The Higher Education Sector: Enhancing The Focus On Learning

The primary concept of competency-based learning is to develop a strong employable workforce for the future requirements of the labor market


A healthy economy is one with enough employment opportunities and enough skilled job seekers. 65% of India’s population is in the working age group, however, only 10% of the workforce is in the organized sector and just 2.5% of our working population has undergone any competency-based skilling. On the other hand, we often keep hearing that industry is always looking for the “right” people and there are thousands of job seekers not being able to get the “right” jobs. The problem in India is not that of unemployment but unemployability and low minimum wages. Any graduate student passing out post a degree does get a job, however, they don’t get the wages they want or should be paid.

All of this is due to the fact that the graduates that pass out of institutes – be it a graduate degree program, engineering or polytechnic programs, our graduates are not employable. They are theoretically prepared for the job but have little or no skills to be considered employable. Hence, they either take up whatever job role that comes their way at lower wages or keeps waiting.

This problem can be addressed by providing ‘Competency Based Learning’, which globally has been accepted as an alternative to traditional education. Competency-based learning provides credits through their skills and knowledge needed for a particular job role and also assess them accordingly, as against attendance basis credit hours or the duration the student has attended his / her class. Many universities in India are now moving to ‘Competency Based Learning’ that focuses on learning outcomes and individual assessment results. These can be learned by multiple models of learning, such as ‘Online, On the Job, On Campus and Onsite’.

The primary concept of competency-based learning is to develop a strong employable workforce for the future requirements of the labor market. Key elements which ‘Competency Based Learning’ must focus on:

Competencies: The primary belief is that a graduate learning through the competency-based system not just knows about a particular subject but can also do work on the same.  Competencies need to be developed, learned, relearnt, certified etc.

Quality: Developing a competency-based framework is one of the most important aspects of determining the quality of the students. Identifying learning outcomes, understanding of the knowledge and acquiring requisite skills define the “Quality” of the student.

Assessment: Competency-based assessments are an essential part of any successful learning program. They allow institutes to improvise on their learning initiatives, enhance productivity and fill the gap between knowing and doing. These assessments should be able to derive student wise skill competencies and capabilities to perform varied tasks.

Learning: Competency-based learning’s focus should primarily be on what and how the student learns rather than how much a student learns. Learning happens through various methods such as classroom, hands-on practical, industry on the job learning and many others. Such learnings are well-defined, fixed and outcome driven.

Student-Centric: This mode of learning moves students from passive receivers of information to active participants in their own discovery process. What students learn, how they learn it and how their learning is assessed are all driven by each individual student’s needs and abilities.

Competency-based learning can be both acquiring domains specific or generic skill sets. Domain learning will focus on knowledge, skills, and attitudes for a specific domain or a job role. Generic skills are basic transferable capabilities parallel to any specific profession such as language capabilities, analytics, planning, problem-solving, technology skills etc.  A learner’s core competencies will be a mix of these domain and generic skill sets.

We need ‘Competency Based learning’ to be acceptable as a mainstream form of learning across all higher education institutes. With competency-based learning, the role of the teacher will move from being a standalone classroom teacher to one of being a coach, mentor and a facilitator for the students. It provides greater flexibility for teachers to deliver their programs across all profiles of learners while addressing each learner’s need.

While few higher education institutes have started using ‘Competency Based Learning’, a lot of awareness for this model of learning still needs to be created. All stakeholders such as policymakers, Education institutes, teachers, students, and parents must work together to create a strong preference for this form of learning, thereby encouraging the adoption of the model in many more Higher Education Institutes.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house

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