1st Competency-Based Educational Institution in Malaysia

About Competency-Based Learning

Competency-Based Learning (CBL) is a structured approach to training and assessment that is directed toward achieving specific outcomes.

Competency based learning (CBL) is not new. It has, however, received much attention over the past few years as more institutions and programs move towards this new way of training. As the name suggests, these programs are based on the development of competencies applicable to a particular career or job. As such, it gives learners not just a focused but flexible structure and more importantly affordability, as learners do not have to learn everything under the sun and become master of all trade.

What is unique about CBL is that it focuses on what students learn and the exact skills that are required instead of the time spent in the classroom completing credits. In CBL, if you learn fast, you move fast. For students who need more time, they can work at their own pace to demonstrate mastery in the competencies necessary for their chosen field of career, instead of being forced to go to the next “level” just because the student has been in the class for a specified time.

While there are many well-known benefits of CBL, there are five key ones:

Skills-based:

One of the key benefits of CBL is that learning focuses on the development of real-world skills and knowledge. Programs are designed around competencies that are required for a particular career/job, ensuring that the material remains relevant across time. The end-game is that students are workplace ready and gain the expertise in their chosen fields. On the flip side, employers also value CBL as the graduates of these programs can join the workforce and hit the ground running. 

Flexible:

As the program structure depends on the individual learner, CBL is very flexible. There is no rigid schedule to follow, no set semesters and no compulsory classes. Instead, students have complete control on when and where they complete the projects, assignments and assessments. CBL is also flexible in that it allows students to enter a program at any level, depending on previous experience and qualification. Students do not need to start from zero. 

Self-paced:

CBL focuses on the final outcome and less so on the journey. As a there is no pre-set learning modules/processes, it enables students to learn at their own pace and set their own learning milestones. Granted, our trainers/mentors will provide suggested guidance, but it all comes down to the choice of the students. As CBL is a process where students advance upon demonstration of mastery, as soon as a student feels they can prove mastery, they can take an assessment, receive credit and start on learning new skills. Fast or slow, students are able to complete a program when they are ready. This is especially useful for adult and working learners who may be working towards a degree around other schedules and commitments.

Highly-engaging:

One of the strongest elements of CBL is increased student engagement. Besides more tailored curriculum, learners are more engaged in the material as they feel a sense of ownership over their learning process. They feel empowered as they have control over where, when, and how they learn. With the approach, CBL ensures that it is truly a personalized learning experience. 

Affordable:

This is one of the most important plus points of CBL – the lower cost to acquire the skills needed to excel in workplace. As the tuition depends on the exact time taken for a student to complete a program instead of a pre-determined timeline, the faster a learner progresses through the material, the less expensive the program is. While there is the risk of a student taking longer, the cost will still be affordable as the program is tailored towards specific skillsets for specific careers, instead of a broad curriculum.

Comparison of Traditional to Competency-Based Learning

Traditional Learning

  • Focus on supplying graduates to the market
  • End-process evaluation (exam-driven)
  • Rote learning (e.g. memorization)
  • Learning content is based on syllabus and is more theoretical
  • Educator-centered
  • Educator uses deductive approach to teaching
  • Development of curriculum content is not open to public comment

Competency-Based Learning

  • Focus on employer demand in the market
  • In-process evaluation (coursework-driven)
  • Meaningful learning (e.g. critical thinking)
  • Learning content integrates knowledge with skills, attitudes, and values
  • Learner-centered
  • Educator uses inductive approach to teaching
  • Comment and input from the wider community and stakeholders is encouraged.