Prof. Dr. M. M. Shahidul Hassan :
A recent upsurge of graduates in different disciplines at home and abroad makes it desirable for graduates from universities in Bangladesh to be significantly equivalent and recognized globally. To produce graduates who can compete successfully in the job market, the Bangladesh Government and the UGC have agreed to revitalize the higher education system. The government has recently formed Bangladesh Accreditation Council (BAC) to prepare the standards and criteria for the accreditation of undergraduate and graduate programs. The council is working on preparing accreditation parameters based on those presently used by other accreditation councils or bodies in the world. The quality and relevance of education that a graduate in Bangladesh receives is of great importance today to our country’s development and economic activities. The nation, therefore, has a great stake in how our universities are giving education to our graduates and how our graduates are being trained. Society does not want to see universities that will produce graduates who acquire subject specific- knowledge only. They want graduates who have achieved competencies not only in their chosen field of studies but also generic competencies such as analytical ability, communication skills and the ability to work alone as well as in a team. Therefore, the roles and purposes of universities in modern, complex societies are related to the competencies that higher education provides to students.
University graduates have to adapt themselves to the rapidly changing job market, but traditional education (TE) has failed to produce such graduates. TE provides students with a learning environment with little attention to whether or not students ever learn the material. In the traditional education system, only the content of the courses and what the teacher or the textbook has to say is important. Learners receive information from the course teacher and do not play a very active role in the learning situation. Most of their learning is memory-based. In TE, learners seldom get the opportunity to show what they have learned and how to apply their knowledge. Learners remember and repeat everything they learned. They do not know whether they understand and are able to use what they have learned in different ways or situations. In fact, learning performance takes more complex forms than content-focused skills. As there is a lack of emphasis on high-level skills and innovative quality needed in jobs, graduates are not prepared for the workforce. It is now agreed that not only higher learning institutions, but also schools need to improve and assist students in achieving more meaningful and life-enhancing competencies.
Educational researchers have proposed many educational models, but the most widely used one is Outcome-Based Education (OBE). Leading institutions across the world are using OBE. It is an educational model that rejects the traditional focus on what the higher learning institutions provide to students, in favor of making students to demonstrate that they “know and are able to do”. The important component of OBE is to develop some measurable program outcomes (POs) for learners that they will be able to do successfully during their study at universities. The academic department based on program outcomes develop the curriculum, instruction, assessment, and reporting.
Teachers teach students how to accomplish those predefined outcomes, and then assessing and documenting the end they are to achieve in the first place. The fundamental cause-and-effect logic of this model is: education (the means) is based on the outcome (the end), not the other way around. In OBE language, successful learning (the end) is the constant, and the time required to attain it is flexible. OBE rests on three basic premises: (i) all students can learn and succeed (but not at the same rate), (ii) success in institutions breeds further success, and (iii) institutions control the conditions of success. But in our present educational system time is the constant, and learning is the variable. In OBE, real outcomes matter and occur after students have finished their formal educational experiences. Life, not an educational institution, is the real measure of an education’s significance and impact, and therefore, each program must set some objectives known as Program Educational Objectives (PEOs). Attainment of PEOs by a graduate at her/his working place is measured. Both POs and PEOs are measurables, for example, “Rahim can eat a whole chicken roast in 15 minutes” instead of “Rahim is a glutton”. A complete system of outcomes for a subject area normally includes everything from the mere recitation of fact (“Students will name three tragedies written by Shakespeare”) to complex analysis and interpretation (“Student will analyze the social context of a Shakespearean tragedy in an essay”).
OBE is not above criticism. OBE does not create a situation where successful students can move on to more advanced material until each student in the class has mastered the current material. Although theoretically intended to promote group learning, the effect has been to slow advanced students, while slower students slow down even more. OBE remains an experiment at different levels not only in developed countries like South Africa but also in the Western countries still employing the curriculum in whole or in parts. For example, in Australia, OBE became part of a national mission with local adaptations. In Canada, OBE was a provincial experiment that gained popularity in Ontario. In the United States, OBE was met with much hostility at the state level but gained acceptance in the districts.
The world’s education systems are time-based: that is, they are defined by, organized around, focused on, and managed according to the calendar and clock, not outcomes. When an official time block ends, so does the learner’s opportunity to pursue the outcomes and improve performance on them. Therefore, universities should not make significant changes overnight. Full implementation of OBE in a short time is not possible. The preparedness of university authorities, teachers, and students to accept or receive such ideas is critical. Many teachers at universities have no idea what OBE is and are not ready for OBE. Initially, OBE did not work in many countries because there was resistance to change. Therefore, a gradual transformation from TE to OBE is essential. We may follow the three sequential changes i.e. traditional, transitional, and transformational OBE.
(Dr. Shahidul Hassan is Vice Chancellor, East West University. Email: [email protected])