International Bureau of Education
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Content Section

Competency-based approaches


The concept of competency is a pillar of curriculum development and a driving force behind the process of change. It is defined as “the development of complex capacities that enable students to think and act in various fields of activity […]. It consists of achieving knowledge in action, the result of a sound knowledge base that can be put into practice and used to explain what is happening” (Braslavsky, C.).

Competence can be used as an organising principle of curriculum. In a competency-based curriculum, exit profiles specify the classes of situations that learners must be able to handle competently by the end of their education. Depending on the type of education, these classes of situations are identified either on the basis of real-life or work-related situations or on the internal logic of the discipline in question.

Competence as an organising principle of the curriculum is a way to bring real life back into the classroom (Jonnaert, P. et al, Prospects, UNESCO, 2007). It is thus a move away from the idea that curriculum is mainly implemented by having students reproduce theoretical knowledge and memorise facts (the conventional knowledge-based approach).