Traditional or competency-based teaching? The difficult transition of educational model


Times change, students too, and the educational model finds it difficult to keep up with the rapid pace of these changes. The transition from a traditional model of knowledge accumulation to a skills model and, now, to a results model, demands a vision of the future.

It is necessary to make efficient use of the efforts of students who, often dispersed in the classroom and overstimulated by social networks and the immediacy of information, lose attention and interest in classes with a traditional format. The figure of the inspiring teacher and learning guide is now enhanced with the new digital tools.

Raised as a substantial investment in resources and time, education is a lever for social progress and quality of life and, therefore, essential for the future of humanity. It requires material and time resources: it comprises a large part of the life cycle, an average of 19 years, which represents 23% of current life expectancy in Spain (83.06 years).

One year of study for every two of working life

Almost a quarter of the life of university-educated professionals is devoted to preparation prior to entering the world of work. In it, they will carry out their activity for an average of 34.8 years (according to FUNCAS with data from Eurostat ENLACE ). This represents an investment of one year of study for every 1.83 years of working life.

Introducing this economistic point of view leads to a demanding approach about the true value that training actions provide: as in any investment process, it would be convenient to be right about what should be learned, how and when each subject corresponds and, also, how the contents, pedagogical tools and learning methodologies; all this with the aim of making the process “profitable”.

For this reason, the educational system, as an experienced investor, should make decisions that try to create the maximum possible value for the student, acting quickly when incorporating content that the current and future world needs, without abandoning what is essential.

Obsolete content and evaluation methods

It has been a long time since the population has needed to learn to light a fire with wood and flint, or to distinguish between wild edible plants or to make their own clothes. Learning languages ​​is also much more useful than memorizing the list of the Visigoth kings.

It is important to consider how knowledge and skills should be evaluated in the current era. What is purely rote continues to be the predominant model for access to civil servant positions in public administrations. Even in other activities, such as the driver’s license, it is required to remember issues “as important” for the aspiring driver as the maximum authorized weight of the trailer that could pull a vehicle.

Assessment has sadly become the center of the educational model. A classic exam is an artificial, partial and random evaluation in which it is easier to measure knowledge than skills, so the new evaluation systems through challenges and other work methodologies are closer to what the evolution of the world demands .

Competencies, not memory

The Ebau or Evau, formerly called Selectividad, is another example of massive and intensive evaluation of knowledge with considerable memory load that many students seem to erase from their minds the next day.

Companies demand skills, but the educational system continues to act like someone trying to introduce more spoonfuls of “potito” to a baby when he keeps his mouth closed, flooding his tender face with food and ending up on a napkin: wasted product and inefficient result and exhausting for both parties, until a way is found for the infant to collaborate with interest in the process.

The return of the home teacher

Faced with an unfathomable and growing universe of knowledge and information, in which the teacher and his books have ceased to be the main source of wisdom, the current teacher must assume the main challenge: to return to being the guidance teacher who provokes curiosity. of the students and their interest in learning and wanting to go further in the subjects that most attract them.

You can innovate a lot in the themes and approaches of individual and group work, guide them to choose options and mature them, show paths and not give recipes for mechanical follow-up. Memorize what really matters. Learn philosophy, literature or history, not only as a list of authors, works and dates, but in a holistic context that helps to understand the reason for their creations or the events that have occurred, thus reinforcing the undeniable value of the humanities in a world digitized and algorithmic.

Motivation, great absent

The educational system does not seem to find the key to motivate students. Many of them get bored after hours chained to a desk and before the unstoppable succession of evaluation tests and assignments.

They suffer from the addition of new innovative proposals over the traditional ones, which results in a double effort for teachers and students.

Dropping out of school has a high social and economic cost (budgets and investments that are not profitable). Curiosity and a true desire to learn have not been instilled in them, despite the fact that the early dropout rate in Spain has decreased in the last 10 years, from 26.3% to 13.3% (male early dropout is 72% higher than women).

Too many trips, little rice

Currently operating an educational model that can be viewed as a paella with many ingredients and little rice that is compressing, with little intersection, traditional and modern learning methods.

The first, predominantly rote based, intensive in lectures, class hours and solitary individual study.

The second, based on teamwork, student participation, experimentation, the development of entrepreneurial projects, the interest in stimulating capacities and even the teaching of so-called soft and technological skills; although, also, sometimes, relatively chaotic due to its multi-activity and coupling with other tasks.

Antagonistic forces

The result is a kind of student trapped between two antagonistic forces, compressed by the difficulty of integrating both models in a daily day, as if both could not be reconciled.

It is important to transmit to all the actors in the educational sector the need to make a constructive change with a future projection, undoubtedly necessary for a country educational strategy that is hopeful and viable in all senses.

Author Bio:Ricardo Palomo-Zurdo is Professor of Financial Economics, Dean at CEU San Pablo University and Director of CEU Digital at CEU San Pablo University