A Competency-Based Curriculum

Manila Bulletin, January 18, 2009 | Go to article overview

A Competency-Based Curriculum


THE competency-based curriculum is supposed to be a response to long lingering allegations that more and more students who finish their respective courses do not have the competencies needed in the workplace. Found wanting by business, industry, and other employment institutions, these students hoped to be part of, they remain unemployed in search of jobs in places where their respective degrees are normally considered a pre-requisite.

Either they are overqualified degree-wise, or they do not have the expertise needed by prospective employers. Hence, the phenomenon of jobless college graduates or of graduates in jobs not necessarily related to their academic degrees.

Institutions of higher learning, sensitive to these challenges, keep tinkering with their curricula, teaching methodologies, use of technology, teacher training and other such measures all under the banner of making their course offerings relevant to the workplace. They reach out to business, industry and professional institutions in order to know what competencies these groups require. Hence, the emergence of the competency-based curriculum.

The basic context of the competency-based curriculum is a list of skills and techniques required by business, industry, and other employment places which are generally task-oriented to serve current and emerging needs - in more specific terms, what new graduates are expected to do as part of a given enterprise.

Indeed, this is a commendable initiative in terms of making educational institutions responsive to the preferences and requirements of the job market. It is also a strong marketing strategy for educational institutions as a "come on" for students aiming to land a job after graduation.

The teaching-learning linkages of institutions of higher learning with specific businesses or industries further enhance the exposure of students to prospective work places and crucial personalities in their respective courses. Consequently, and hopefully, students should find more meaning and relevance in the theoretical aspects of their courses under study. A great move, indeed, to make so-called classroom-teaching-learning processes more closely related to actual field realities.

Embarking on a competency-based curriculum is an intricate process for universities, whose curricula are normally a blend of tradition, creative insights of the administrators and faculty, and other such factors popularized by the very nature of being academic institutions vested with the academic freedom to innovate and introduce new perspectives into their academic endeavors.

The thrust towards a competency-based curriculum can be an exciting endeavor in terms of bringing hard realities into academe. It is a bold step to come down from the so-called "ivory tower" stance of academic institutions to take cognizance of enhancing their students' eventual employability.

On the other side, business, industry, and other employment institutions are pleased to have a say and be able to assure themselves of a prospective resource directly relevant to their needs and interests. In economic terms, they get what they want with less investment in on-the-job training, orientation programs, and other measures to make new employees part of a working culture.

The mutuality of arrangements and benefits arising out of a competency-based curriculum between academic institutions and employment agencies is a creative tension contributing to the wider goals of a given society. The academic process is tedious but the results are promising particularly in the marketability of courses to prospective students.

As part of an institution of higher learning engaged in the thrust towards a competency-based curriculum, I provide the following caveats in order to provide depth and perspective to the process:

(1) A competency-based curriculum must be anchored on a strong Liberal Arts foundation. …

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