Recently the University Grants Commission of Bangladesh (UGC) has asked all universities to revise their undergraduate curricula based on the Outcome-Based Education (OBE) template provided. Why is the shift, from the long practiced Traditional Education (TE) to this OBE? We need to know the main features of OBE and the weaknesses of TE.
Present society needs creative, high-skilled, flexible, innovative, critical thinking and entrepreneurial graduates who face the challenges of today's changing work environment. At present, the Outcome- Based Education is being widely used by the well-known universities across the world. Traditional education is highly dependent on theoretical aspects of learning. It does not provide any chance for students to develop new skills which might be useful for building their careers.
The primary role of a university in TE is to impart subject knowledge to students, and teaching is deductive type. In a deductive classroom, the course teacher introduces concepts to students and conducts lessons with explanations and then expects students to complete tasks to practice the concepts. This approach is absolutely teacher-centered. This teaching method is often criticized because: i) little attention is paid to students whether they understand the concept or not, ii) it does not bring out the best in students, and iii) it does not involve students in learning. Extensive educational research has repeatedly pointed out that traditional lecture-based instruction is less effective at promoting learning and high-level skill development. TE only teaches students what to think, and not how to think. It provides students with a learning environment with little attention to whether or not students ever learn the materials. It is enough that a university has given students an opportunity to learn. Actual achievement is neither measured nor required by the university. The academic achievement is assessed by examinations. Students are given grades and rankings. As a result, students become exam oriented or CGPA driven. Teachers praise academically excellent students, but they do not give much thought to those who lag behind. Therefore, most students talk more about grades than they do about learning, and this preoccupation continues through their study at universities and beyond. On the other hand, OBE is based on the premise that there is no student left behind and all students can and will learn. It creates the kind of atmosphere that supports learning. Students will not all learn the same things at the same skill level or in the same time, but students can learn something if they are in a university. Unlike TE a course teacher monitors academic progress of his/her students individually. It has a lot in common with a physician diagnosing patients. A physician always examines patients individually and makes separate recommendations for different patients.
In OBE a course teacher sets some course learning outcomes (CLOs) and measures how much each student has achieved CLOs. The assessment process examines the extent to which students have achieved the CLOs of the course. Therefore, in designing an assessment programme it is essential that the learning outcomes form the basis of what is assessed and how it is assessed. OBE teaching is not deductive, it is inductive. Researchers find a better way to motivate students is inductive teaching, in which the teacher begins by presenting students with a specific challenge, such as experimental data to interpret, a case study to analyze, or a complex real-world problem to solve.
Each academic programme has a curriculum and the degree offering department provides courses from the curriculum. Curriculum is a formal academic plan for the learning experience of students pursuing a university degree. Two different approaches to curriculum development are followed in TE and OBE. Traditional curriculum is designed with emphasis on inputs, objectives, academic subjects, content, knowledge and the teacher. Increasingly, the focus has shifted towards outputs and learning outcomes. Curricular design in OBE starts with learning outcomes instead of starting with time/term/semester structures. Each programme has some programme outcomes (POs) and each course has some course learning outcomes (CLOs). CLOs must satisfy the stated programme outcomes. There is no need for any (individual) course to address all programme outcomes. POs and CLOs are those that they can be assessed and evaluated during study of students at a university. In addition, each programme must have specific Programme Educational Objectives (PEOs) that students are supposed to achieve in 3-5 years after graduation. In contrast to traditional curriculum, responses of students and stakeholders are reflected in OBE curriculum development.
In OBE, high-quality sharable resources, assessments, and rubrics are designed to support learning outcomes. In nutshell, OBE is a combination of three types of competence: a) practical: knowing how to do things, ability to make decisions, b) fundamental: understanding what you are doing and why, c) reflective: learn and adapt through self-reflection; apply knowledge appropriately and responsibly. Learners take responsibility for their own learning and are motivated by feedback and affirmation of their worth.
Education researchers have argued that learning content-based approach, i.e. traditional curriculum is less effective than learning objectives-based approach, i.e. OBE curriculum. On the other hand, critics have argued that objectives-based curriculum was burdensome and mechanical, ignoring differences between learners. Some argue that it may work well in certain subject areas such as science, engineering or mathematics but that in other fields where autonomous, personal judgements of value or taste are required, objectives are of limited use. The main argument of OBE supporters is that OBE provides an opportunity for students to develop new skills that can be effective in shaping their careers. Despite the criticism of OBE, universities not only in Western countries but also in many countries in Africa and Asia have adopted OBE few decades ago. Universities in Bangladesh have just joined them. It will be the responsibility of our universities to find out how these universities have implemented OBE.
The writer is Vice Chancellor, East West University. Email: email@example.com