The development impact of quality education and learning effectiveness is actualized through the application of competencies that have been defined as essential for supporting development in specific contexts.
Development contexts are rapidly and sometimes unpredictably changing. Quality education systems not only have to effectively support the acquisition of development responsive learner competencies but also have to ensure the sustained responsiveness of those competencies. Quality education systems have to enable learners to continuously adapt their competencies while continuously acquiring and even developing new ones2. These competencies are diverse in scope ranging from core skills, content knowledge, cognitive skills, soft skills, to occupational skills and enable us to "meet a complex demand or carry out a complex activity or task successfully or effectively in a certain context"3. Their typologies and approaches are as diverse as entities –countries, organizations and individuals– that define them (See: Categorisation of competencies). Competencies are acquired through learning cycles and throughout one’s life.
They are acquired through formal, non-formal and informal education and settings. When developed among disadvantaged groups early in their lifecycle, competencies can play a critical role in fostering conditions for an inclusive and sustainable development and in reducing socio-economic inequalities. The range of competencies address diverse development needs including the creation of democratic, just, peaceful and sustainable societies with social cohesion and cultural diversity, the development learners’ capabilities fully and throughout life to enable them: to live the kinds of life they prefer; to be responsible citizens; to adapt to swift and complex changes in society and the world of work; and to critically analyze and transform society.
Learning outcomes are essentially evidence of having acquired competencies. They attest to the effectiveness of education systems at delivering quality education and effective learning. This Analytical Tool considers desired learning outcomes with a particular focus on the notion of competency . It aims to assist Member States in undertaking a thorough diagnosis of competencies that learners should acquire in order to effectively support their defined development agendas.
What learners can acquire, however, depends not only on a clear definition of intended competencies and learning outcomes but also on different inter-linked elements of the GEQAF such as how they are packaged and presented, how they are taught, where they are taught and acquired, how learners are facilitated, how we verify their acquisition. Hence this Analytical Tool has to be used in conjunction and in complementarity with others.
Its paramount question is: What are the most important sets of competencies for our general education learners to acquire as learning outcomes if they are to effectively contribute to our development agenda and to face today’s (and tomorrow’s) world? This question is addressed in two aspects: 1) conceptualization of desired learning outcomes / a set of key competencies (See: Examples of countries' definitions of competencies); and 2) reorienting policies and interventions as well as revisiting visions and restructuring elements of education systems to achieve identified learning outcomes.
Diagnosis and analysis
Conceptualizing learning outcomes
1. Vision and national frameworks: What is our country’s vision about the kind of society desired today and in the future ? Does our vision address issue of equity and inclusion? Are the aims and purposes of education identified relevant to our vision of future society and citizen?
2. Competencies/desired learning outcomes: What is our understanding on key competencies with which citizens have to be equipped to realize desired societies? How aredesired learning outcomes (both short-term and long-term) currently understood and conceptualized in our country’s context (i.e. as standards, competencies, learning objectives) and shared by stakeholders? To what extent are the aims of current national development and educational policies and programs reflected in the desired learning outcomes?
3. identifying desired competencies/learning outcomes: What has been done to consider desired key competencies in our country and how the stakeholders contributed to their development? What is the mechanism for engaging and promoting participation of stakeholders from inside and outside the education system in the identification and prioritization desired learning outcomes?
Ensuring the achievement of intended learning outcomes: reorienting policies and interventions as well as adjusting elements of education systems
1. Policies: Are current national education policies relevant to achieve desired learning outcomes? If there are controversies/different opinions with regard to the understanding of competencies and competency development, how are they taken into account in our current educational policies? Have any particular policy measures been taken to address equity in learning outcomes?
2. Curricula: To what extent is the current curriculum relevant in leading learners to achieve the desired competencies? What approaches were used to effectively develop a curriculum which ensures equitable acquisition of desired competencies? Can competency-based approaches be a main syllabi organizer and the sequence of learning and teaching? How are learning areas and cross-cutting issues and related contents organized in the curriculum?
3. Teachers as well as teaching and learning: What is teachers’ understanding of desired competencies that learners should acquire? What measures have we taken to improve teachers’ competencies? How well do current teacher policies, management and teaching strategies accommodate learners´ diverse needs? How are competencies taught and learnt at school and classroom levels?
4. Assessment: How well do existing assessments cover key competencies that should be measured? What are the current strengths and weaknesses of learning outcomes (e.g. type of competencies, level of acquisition, and equity in learning outcomes)? What have been the key challenges in measuring competencies acquired (e.g. technical capacity, curricula reform, teacher training, governance, financial issue)? How do we assess the effectiveness of policies and interventions introduced to ensure learners’ acquisition of key competencies? How were the results of assessment used to improve the relevance of expected learning outcomes?
5. Learning environment: To what extent have we provided the necessary learning and teaching environment conducive for attaining the desired learning outcomes? What is the role of learning environment to facilitate the understanding of real-life situations?
Priorities for action
1. What are the knowledge gaps which need to be filled for an evidence-based policy and practice to enable learners to develop and acquire a set of competencies relevant for individual and development needs?
2. What changes (e.g. visions, policies, programs and interventions) should be made in our education system to attain the desired learning outcome more effectively? What are strengths that exist in our current system to facilitate these changes? How can they be leveraged most effectively?
3. What are the required actions to deal with the priority constraints and the identified knowledge gaps?
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