Botswana aspires to run a knowledge-based economy in a not too distant future. The goal is to achieve a high-income status whose economy would be inclusive of all persons.
In order for us to run a knowledge-based economy, we will need a knowledge worker. A worker whose livelihood is dependent on their intellectual capabilities. A worker whose competencies would be used to navigate through life challenges.
A person whose skills will not only help them adapt to environmental changes, but would also propel them to contribute significantly to the growth of the economy. Through its various initiatives and programmes, Botswana education sector aspires to produce the kind of a knowledge worker.
The Ministry of Basic Education has put in motion a multiple pathways system that will be using the Outcome-Based Education system (OBE) methodology. For us to understand OBE, it might be helpful to compare the current system to that which is envisaged. Under the OBE system, it is the learner needs that determine the learning processes including the type of instructional delivery and assessment.
Unlike in the current system where the focus is ‘knowledge acquisition’, OBE calls for acquisition of skills, the right attitude (soft skills) and knowledge. Even the assessment procedures ought to consider all the three competencies.
The current system assumes one-size-fits-all as regards to schools, teachers and teaching, learners and learning, times(schedules) and many other factors, while OBE advocates for a variation in learning approaches, environments and times.
The basis is that all learners are capable of learning even if that can happen at different times. The current assessment ideology is ‘selection oriented’. Its main determination is to rank candidates for purposes of progression of some. It serves as an elimination tool in a competition.
Assessment under OBE is for growth and development purposes. A criteria-referenced approach is what defines Outcome Based Assessment. It is about what a learner is able to do, not how many candidates should progress to upper learning standards.
Instructional delivery is one key aspect that differentiates the classic system (status quo) from the OBE system. While a teacher assumes the fountain of knowledge under the current set up, the role of a teacher is to facilitate under the new dispensation.
The likelihood of students failing examinations becomes a very strong possibility. Hence, every teacher develops lecturing strategies befitting the current demands. Rote-learning becomes the most suitable strategy.
The more students cram the concepts; the more chances they have of retrieving such knowledge in an exam. The results of which are more A*s A’s and Bs. All these have to be planned for and determined within a none-flexible period of time. Under OBE system, it is about determining the competencies of a learner.
Upon defining what a learner should be able to do (learning outcome), the facilitator ought to determine the most suitable assessment procedures for that learning outcome. These assessment procedures would vary depending on the outcomes and the environment.
It is after planning for assessment that learners engage in the actual learning practices. One very important step under OBE is to ensure that learners are well aware of the evidence that would be required, signifying competence upon successful completion of any given learning outcome.
Therefore, criteria for assessment should be publicised well in time to all the learners. Yes, it is important to stand in front of students and lecture, but it should not overshadow the importance of learners taking charge of their learning most of the times. The current classic system has served us well. It has produced learned individuals and developed our economy thus far.
Moving forward, I think we need a curriculum that will develop not just the knowledge, but the right skills and attitudes. I am not at all saying that OBE is an all perfect system with no discrepancies, but it is a change that has hallmarks of getting Botswana to a knowledge based economy.