The competency-based primary education is a major initiative for ensuring the quality of outcome of the learners. It is one of the major educational endeavors in order to achieve the Education for All (EFA) and ensuring the quality of education to the all learners since this competency-based education is focused on the qualitative aspect of learning outcome of the learners. This policy brief paper is going to highlight the some issues regarding quality outcome in response to the competency-based primary education.

The quality outcome reflects the achievement of various skills of the learners.  It includes what children know and can do as well as comprises the attitudes and expectations they have for themselves and their societies. The Quality outcome focuses on the learners’ achievement in literacy and numeracy, life skills, health outcomes and so on. It also emphasizes on using of the formative assessment. (UNICEF 2000)

Hence, this competency-based primary education curriculum (defines in the Endnote 1) would be reflected in the all spheres of the primary education activities, for example, textbook development, teachers’ training and assessment process. It is important to determine what competency a learner would acquire on each grade as well as after the completion of the primary education. Thus, to implement the competency-based primary education curriculum the contents would focus on the grade-wise competencies. Moreover, the learners’ learning outcome would be assessed on the achievement of the competencies. So, it is essential that the teachers have to be prepared for this and the pre and in service-training program have to be designed accordingly. It would add some qualitative aspects of the present training system since now the learning outcomes are well defined and the teachers would get more concrete objective of teaching for the class-room’s practice.

The Concept of the Competency-based Primary Education

In general, the term competency means a standardized requirement for an individual to properly perform a specific job. Hence, the educational competency purports achieving of special capabilities of human being. It is a combination of knowledge, skills and attitudes (KSA). It is expected expected that the comptency of knowledge, skills and attitde of the students would be reflected on the reading, writing, account keeping, thinking, systhesinzing, analyzing, listening, presenting, directing, assessing, comparing, applying abilities. There would be step by step system for achieving the competencies. The related concepts regarding the competency-based education are terminal and attainable competencies.

Any educational course has a definite duration. Say, in a country A, the duration of the formal primary education is 5 years.  During these five years of primary education each student has to acquire some specific competencies, which is called essential learning continuum. It is well specified what competency a learner will achieve through this 5-year education program and these competencies are identified as the terminal competencies. Say, the the terminal competency of the priamry education is that one reader will be able to read a story. For this, one of the  the grade wise attainable compenecy in grade III would be that after completing gade III one reader will be able to read simple sentences.

There should be a systematic way so that the learners can acquire these terminal competencies. They will acquire some competency in grade 1, some more in grade 2 and similarly they will achieve total competencies of primary education in grade 5. The competencies that learners achieve after finishing 5 years long primary education are regarded as terminal competency of primary education. For each grade, the required competencies are specified and these are called grade-wise attainable competencies.

The Characteristics of Competency

The competency based primary education has its own characteristics. In a word it can be termed as SMART. SMART means:

S- Specific

It should be clear in a lesson what learners would acquire from it.  For example, learners will learn about the bad effects of using pesticides.

M- Measurable

All competencies should be measurable. For example, learners will know three clauses of women’s legal-right.

A- Achievable

All competencies should be achievable. For example, learners will be able to name ten materials needed for the construction of a bridge. If it were intended that learners would be able to construct a bridge – that may not be achieved.

R- Realistic

All competencies should be realistic. For example, learners will be able to tell 10 advantages of speaking the truth. But it would not be achievable if the expected skills were set that learners will not tell lie in their lifetime.

T- Time bound

There should be a specific time limit for the competency to be achieved. (DMA)

For implementing the competency-based education, the teachers have to be prepared and the students would be assessed based on the competency based curriculum. So, there needs some changes with the present practice in primary education.  It is essential that the teachers have to be prepared or adjusted for this competency based education system to impart learning in the classroom as well as to assess the learners. This paper is going to highlight the related issues regarding the teacher training and assessment process in response to the competency based primary education.

Teacher Training for The Competency-based Primary Education

Teachers are the vital players to implement of the competency-based primary education for achieving the quality of education. The job of the teachers will be to assist the students to achieve the competency through imparting the knowledge from the text and assess the students’ level of achievement. There are various factors regarding the effective participation of the teachers, such as: quality of the teacher’s instruction whether it addresses the students’ abilities, prior knowledge, different learning rates, the existence of incentives both academic and behavioral in order to motivate the students and arouse curiosity, effective use of the time dealing with materials and keeping students task. (World Bank)

For having an effective teaching service, the pre and in service trainings are essential. The purpose of the pre-service teacher education is to provide an exposure to the curriculum, its objectives, methods and evaluation strategies. In addition to this, the teachers also learn about the classroom management techniques and opportunities for teaching the students from the pre-service training. In service-professional training the teachers get opportunities to develop their skill and solve the problem that they usually face during their teaching. There remain some problems in the present practice, such as: text-based, passive and lecture oriented teacher education, poorly designed, inflexible, very theoretical teacher preparation, failure to bridge the gap between the curricular content and real teaching practice. Williams and Alvaraz (2000) Moreover, it is also commented that the pre-service teacher education is more focused on the storage of information rather than the development of the capacity and there remains a gap between the training and actual demand for the effective and innovative teaching manner.

The pre and in service training of the teachers would be designed in such a way that the teachers can understand the objectives and methods of the competency based primary education. They have to understand the relationship between the grade wise attainable competencies and the terminal competencies. During there presentation they have to set the clear goal about the achievement of the competencies of the learners from that lesson. They also need to understand the prior achievement of the competencies of the learners. So, the training program has to be designed considering these factors.

Assessment Process for the Competency-based Education

To ensure an effective competency-based primary education the assessment system is important. Since for students to measure the level of achievement of terminal competency is based on the achievement of the grade-wise terminal competency- thus to assess each student regularly is important.  The purpose of the assessment of the students would be to assess the achievement of the competencies of the learners. Say, this competency-based education would emphasis that after reading a similar type of comprehension which he/she has read in the text-book one can respond to the questions, instead of ask questions based on story in the textbook. It would not emphasis on the memorization and only on the cognitive learning. The teachers have to be conscious about the so-called SMART concept of the competencies. During the assessment process, they have to design the test in such a way, so that, the students competencies would be measurable and realistic. Since the achievement of the competencies is a continuous process, the teachers have to do the summative and formative form of assessment. Moreover, the teachers have to be trained to keep the record of the continuous progress of the achievement of the competencies of the learners.


There remain the following challenges for competency-based education regarding the issues of the teachers’ preparation. Such as:

1. Since this is a new process it may take time for the teachers to adopt the concept of the competency-based education. The teachers have to specify the objective and the learning outcome of the lesson. Unlike, the previous practice, the tendency to deliver lecture based on the textbooks have to change.

2. There needs necessary reform in the teachers training program also. The training programs have to incorporate the competency based primary education in their program and trained the news teachers accordingly. Hence, there remains a concern of the training for a large number of the old teachers who are not trained for this.  

3. For the competency based primary education the assessment system is different from the traditional practice. Usually, in many countries there was a practice to emphasis on the memorization in the test process. However, this competency-based education does not emphasize on the memorization and cognitive knowledge only, rather focus on the achievement of competency and skill.  So, the teachers have to be prepared for a new type of practice.

4. To ensure the achievement of the competency for all the learners’ regular record keeping is very important because the achievement of the terminal competency is a step by step process through the grade-wise terminal competency. Since the teacher student ratio is very high in the primary schools in many developing and underdeveloped countries, it is a concern for the record keeping process.

5. The possibility of increase of inequality in education for this competency-based education cannot be discarded. It can be anticipated that there would be difference in the performance between the boys and girls or rural and urban students.

About the author

Sameeo Sheesh

Sameeo Sheesh

Sameeo Sheesh is currently working as a Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Advanced Research in Arts and Social Sciences, Dhaka University in Bangladesh. He did his bachelor and Master in Economics from the University of Dhaka. Then, he did Master in Development Studies from BRAC University, Master in International Education from the George Washington University and MA in Educational Research and Evaluation from the University of Sussex. He is involved with social and cultural activities and study circles. He has a great knack for freehand writing and making presentation in seminars/workshops. He has four published books and a number of articles. He also directed a film named ‘Swapno’ (Dream).

About the author

Radia Tamim

Radia Tamim

Radia Tamim is interested in the field of social and economic development, especially, in the sector of research and project management. She is involved with social and cultural activities and study circles. Her book on Prenatal Education (in Bangla) and Climate Change and vulnerabilities of Women: voices of the victim have been admired by the readers. She is an adorable mother of twins.

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