Realistic measures are vital in pursuit of competency-based learning

Twenty-five years ago, Rwanda was left on its knees. The 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi left the country and its people devastated in all fields. Human competence descended into oblivion.

Education, as a key factor that would have helped transform society for the better, had been as well severely affected by this horrendous past.  

But post-war Rwanda envisioned a sound education system, one that was to serve as the cornerstone of the country’s faster recovery and the oil for social development.

And with it, tremendous achievements have been registered in the execution of noble objectives.  Many education policy reforms have been enacted and implemented, their enormous successes are quite visible- and one of these is the introduction of competence based learning.

Competency-based learning is an approach to education that focuses on the student’s demonstration of desired learning outcomes as central to the learning process.

Whereas this type of curriculum is good, it needs distinct measures for it to be well implemented. First and foremost this type of curriculum has its roots in the Paulo Freire education philosophy and it is well-articulated in his work, “the pedagogy of the oppressed”.

Freire was quite challenged by the fact that the ‘banking style’ of teaching was what was globally used and to him, this was unfair and deprived students of their independency in reasoning. To him such a system produced incompetent graduates.

The ‘banking’ concept of education is a method of teaching and learning where the students simply store the information relayed to them by the teacher.

Therefore, Freire’s education philosophy and the competence based curriculum or learning model have similar principles and objectives but does this really apply to us today?  The answer is simply yes. Do we have the necessary capacity to use such a system? That is where my argument lies.

While I believe in positive transformation, there is need to be realistic in the pursuit of this sort of development. Competence-based learning is a great move that needs thorough revision based on the available resources in terms of infrastructure, accessibility of teacher trainings since it is a new model of teaching. Competence based learning is hugely costly.

Our focus should be on the sustainability of the education component in the pursuit of the mainstream goals. But first things first, what is the teacher-student ratio? What is the nature of the classrooms? What level of training have teachers received? Do we have the modern teaching materials and laboratories for the execution of this curriculum?

For competence-based curriculum to become fully relevant, these areas must be highly considered, it is in this respect that we shall be able to nurture a highly competent labour- force that will become the cornerstone of knowledge creation, and continue to steer the country to social and economic development.

The writer is a PhD student at Beijing Normal University.

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