Dr. Saeed Akhtar
Education system in Pakistan is inconsistent, uneven and devoid of objectivity at all levels which has dragged the country into a socio-economically disastrous situation. Poverty, social injustice, ethnicity, unemployment, violence and socio-economic disparities are all the corollary of a deformed and distorted education system. World has turned to be extremely innovative in all walks of life and meeting the present day challenges warrants that substantial improvements are to be made in our system of education. Contrasted with conventional education system, outcome based education (OBE) has spurred a wave of hopefulness and confidence to override barriers hampering our national growth and prosperity. As the term itself portrays, outcome-based education (OBE) is a unique model of education where the central theme of the entire activities remains to be achieving outcome or goal at the end of each course or program. This model provides an opportunity to the learner and the instructor to clearly assess if the educational goals already set are appropriately achieved. Compared with conventional teaching methods, OBE does not involve memorization or recitation rather it covers multiple styles including critical thinking, clarity and assessments etc.
OBE is not principally a new idea because a number of developed economies such as Australia, South Africa, United States, Hong Kong, Malaysia have been following this educational model since long. In the recent past, India, Sri Lanka, China, Turkey have plumped on OBE considering it as an educational model of choice. Conventional system of teaching and learning in Pakistan centers on rigorous exercise throughout the year to disseminate knowledge and skill and an assessment is made as the year ends, giving the students grades to rank them on the basis of what they were taught by the instructors in the class while OBE opens up avenues for learning opportunities beyond the classroom to achieve the defined targets.
The fundamental ingredients that make the OBE, a viable, advantageous and meaningful learning approach include clarity of focus, curriculum design, expectations, opportunities, involvement and flexibility and being student-centered. In OBE, all educational activities are oriented towards the student to make sure that the learner clearly understands the significance and needs of the learning process as a means to develop mastery in a particular skill or academic area. Likewise, the trainer realizes the role of being very much focused on what is being taught that would lead the learner to achieve the intended targets. These targets however cannot be achieved in OBE if the curriculum is not designed so to ensure that the intended outcome of the education process will be met at the end of the activity. Pedagogical techniques devoid of establishing higher expectations and setting challenging standards of performance will no more be effective. OBE system necessitates the students to clearly comprehend what is expected from them as a result of any educational activity and the teacher must understand the techniques on how to help students achieve the prescribed measurable outcomes. Flexibility in OBE denotes understanding learner’s weaknesses and strengths and adjusting them accordingly to reach higher standards. One of the significant features of OBE is to devise a flexible educational ecosystem where all students enjoy expanded opportunities to learn with diversified levels of intellect, cognition and intellectual capacity. OBE involves varied methods of teaching and learning with an aim to acquire the targeted knowledge or the skill at the end of the course or the program. Expanded opportunities to students in OBE implies that the demonstrator must put additional efforts for students with reduced potential and capabilities to achieve targets. Setting specific outcomes to be achieved in OBE helps institutions compare them with other institutions for performance and productivity. Institutions may well understand their weaknesses and strengths on the basis of the outcomes reached or not to improve their educational system. Furthermore, considerations concerning tangible outcomes in education help students make decisions to choose better institutions. One of the considerable components of OBE turns up to be student’s involvement in the class room where they are expected to gain more understanding of working individually and in groups. This also helps the students become more responsible in decision making process. Chiefly, it is the institution’s requirement to decide within its system to define the outcome in OBE. The parents and the stakeholders just evaluate and give their feedback on the success or failure of the system basis of their observation.
It is also important to understand what these learning outcomes are all about in OBE. A learning outcome is basically a kind of developing the capacity of a student to perform a specific job as a result of a learning process examples being, one may say that after this course on communication skill, the graduate will be able to effectively communicate or in engineering, the graduate will be able to design any specific model after the course ends. This may extend from a course learning outcomes to a program learning outcomes as well. Undeniably, defining an outcome seems hard because this must be based on a variety of skills and knowledge and must be quantifiable at the end of the course. In most instances and while designing a curriculum and writing learning outcomes in any OBE, specific expressions, terms and phrases are extensively used at various levels of educational stages such as remember, recall, execute, classify, analyze differentiate evaluate, plan, generate and create etc.
Nations, lagging behind in embracing modern trends in education do not virtually thrive and fail to overthrow the growing challenges, the modern world is entangled in. Realizing the significance of this fact, global economies have smartly exploited education as a potential tool to establish their supremacy over the rest of the world. A positive step taken by Pakistan Engineering Council (PEC) by becoming a provisional signatory to the Washington Accord is a great step forward for higher education in engineering and is highly appreciated by all and sundry. Basically, Washington Accord, established in 1989, is an international agreement for accreditation of the undergraduate engineering programs to ensure equivalency in the signatory countries in terms of meeting the academic requirements for entry into the practice of engineering. However, the conditions of implementing OBE in institutions offering engineering programs in Pakistan is currently challenging especially in public sector institutions. However, implementation of OBE has to be extended beyond engineering to other disciplines across public and private sector institutions to ensure that the massive investment being made in education reciprocates in the same way. Serious efforts by pedagogists, policy makers, legislators, managers and the government functionaries are needed to implement OBE to reap the real benefit of this model of education in Pakistan.
The author is the Director of Institute of Food Science & Nutrition and is a known researcher with specialization in Food Safety and Nutrition. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org