Competency-based education (CBE) is a teaching-learning approach that enables students to learn according to their capacity to acquire knowledge or skills at their own speed, regardless of the setting. This approach supports a variety of learning styles and learning goals in students. This teaching methodology employs an outcome-based approach to enhance students’ learning competency by showcasing the age and grade appropriate knowledge, skills, values, and attitudes that are useful in real-world scenarios (Fig. 1). Even after a student receives their degree, it allows instructors to support their ongoing learning and assist them acquire knowledge and ideals. In summary, CBE is an educational approach that places emphasis on the holistic growth of children.

Origins and evolution of competency-based education

The 1960s and 1970s saw the emergence of competency-based education as a response to criticism of the conventional time-based learning model by educational thinkers and practitioners. The foundation for competency-based learning was established by prominent individuals including Benjamin Bloom, Robert Mager, and Benjamin S. Bloom, who promoted mastery learning and the establishment of precise learning objectives. These early initiatives laid the groundwork for the creation of competency-based education models, which place an emphasis on students mastering particular information and abilities.

Need for competency-based education

Programs based on competency enable students: 

  1. Get ready for the future 
  2. Fulfill the requirements and expectations of a wide range of organizations
  3. Raise the employability ratio

The traditional way of learning can’t meet the demand of today’s students. The theoretical knowledge may only help students in understanding any concept. However, in the actual world, they must possess a “go-getter” mentality, a keen intellect, and abilities or competencies that will enable them to accomplish their objectives. Brilliant students who can stand out from the crowd, contribute to their organization, and produce “nothing but the best” are in high demand by the industries.

Major aspects of competency-based education

  • Curriculum Design : The curriculum should be created with an emphasis on practical experience, skill development, and applications that will benefit students in the long run.
  • Teaching-Learning : The teacher should assist the pupils as they progress through the curriculum and acquire knowledge at their own speed and method.
  • Evaluation : Exam scores are not the basis for evaluation; instead, it is based on the abilities that students have learned and how they use those skills in the actual world.

Outcome-Based Education (OBE) V/S Competency-Based Education (CBE)

The nature of CBE education is somewhat similar to outcome-based education (OBE), since it goes beyond the conventional teaching-learning approach and concentrates on outcomes. The following, however, summarizes the key distinctions between competency-based education (CBE) and outcome-based education (OBE): 

1. Developing competency

Rather than only memorizing theoretical information, students are pushed to acquire logical thinking skills.

2. Skills-based assessments

Students’ skills are intended to be measured by the assessments. Competency-based tools make it possible to accomplish.

3. Equitable perspective

Students that follow the CBE approach to learning are motivated to approach their job with justice and morality.

4. A lifelong student

Students may overcome any obstacle later in life, not simply those related to their work, with a fair attitude and rational reasoning.

Characteristics of Competency-Based Learning (CBL)

Key characteristics of competency-based learning include being outcome-based, learner-centric, and differentiated, which helps to visualize what CBL means to all the stakeholders. Also, these characteristics help the students in understanding CBL and will be easier to make it in practice. These are listed below as follows:


Competency-based learning provides a range of options for every student to acquire the necessary skills at their own speed, gather proof of their education, encourage peer collaboration, and cultivate a lifetime love of learning. Students are additionally empowered to:

 Advance through learning processes without regard to time constraints.

 Recognized the various competencies that students must acquire to meet their objectives.

 Participate in educational endeavors with peer and mentor networks.

 Examine and determine what they have mastered, what they still need to work on, where they are weak, and where their academic performance needs to improve.

 Look at a variety of learning options.

 Consider and introspect on their personal educational successes.

 Produce educational materials that showcase their proficiencies.

Create an online persona that will enable you to manage competences and carryable proof of learning from many sources.


Usually, CBL begins with clearly stated learning objectives. CBL’s framework is derived from the development, administration, and alignment of competency sets to learn materials, evaluation criteria, and analytics for performance monitoring. Academicians and faculty members are principally empowered to:

 Reorganize the curriculum design so that learning objectives come first rather than timetables.

 Create robust sets of learning objectives and competences.

 Encourage genuine exam evaluations that include proof of competency mastery.

 Create excellent tests, downloadable materials, and rubrics that complement learning objectives.

 Encourage open and honest evaluations of learning outcomes at all institute levels.

 Identify danger points in the student’s learning development strategically and provide the necessary solutions.

 Improving academic performance over the long run while putting more emphasis on results than inputs 


• In general, differentiation refers to CBL techniques that acknowledge and make concessions in order to meet the requirements of specific students. It is multifaceted and pertains to interventions, learning processes, communications, and learner support. Differentiated approach has following benefits

• The acquirement of functional skills and abilities that are pertinent to students’ future academics or professional endeavors is emphasized by CBE. The curriculum frequently incorporates endeavors, experiments, and practical lessons to promote relevant instruction and problem-solving skills.

All things considered, competency-based education provides a learner-centered approach that places an emphasis on acquiring necessary information and skills, setting students up for success in a variety of academic and professional contexts.


Principles of competency based education

1. Equity 

Equity is one of the core tenets of competency-based education. Equity aids in eliminating bias in education. Learners are given equal opportunities for accomplishment since they are instructed and led according to their own skills and deficiencies. Achievement is no longer predicted by socioeconomic status, cultural background, language, or household income. 

2. Classes emphasize measurable competencies which help build life skills

• Each student should have their own learning objectives and competencies that have been carefully specified beforehand. Therefore, competencies highlight a student’s practical and current mastery of a particular subject rather than only testing for head knowledge.

• These proficiencies are typically predicated on: 

• • The capacity to apply knowledge to significant problems and challenges

• • Grasping important ideas

• • Expertise in pertinent disciplines

The administrators of the school must recognize the competencies previously in order to evaluate the achievements. Collaboration is needed for this. We can gather feedback on the competencies from the entire faculty to generate fresh concepts about the abilities needed to establish mastery.

3. Transparency assists learners to take ownership

Before beginning the course, students in a competency-based education system comprehend the following three concepts:

  • What is meant by mastery?
  • What knowledge and skills must they acquire?
  • How are they going to be evaluated?

Each student will assume greater responsibility for their own education when they are clear about the ultimate aim. For example, a student knows that in order to finish the project, he or she must apply what they have learned about mathematics. The student can advance in the course and assume greater responsibility for his education if they grasp the relationship. If he or she encounters a problem or is unable to complete the task, they will become aware that assistance is required. Thus, clear objectives and results empower students to take greater ownership of their educational journeys, making them more capable of learning both now and in the future.

4. Students get the necessary support they require individually

Each student is guided towards mastery on a distinct path by the instructors, who assist them overcome their various areas of weakness and utilize their strengths. With the customized and individualized learning process, every student has an equal chance to achieve greater academic performance.

5. Teachers assess students for mastery and growth

There are many forms and varieties of assessments. The three evaluation types mentioned below are best suited for competency-based learning environments:

  • Authentic Assessments: Another excellent method to demonstrate mastery is to have students apply what they have learned to actual circumstances. Additionally, students acquire abilities that they will require in the future. Authentic tests can involve applying arithmetic comprehension to estimate the total cost of a vacation or utilizing English language proficiency to draft a CV or cover letter in order to obtain employment.
  • Formative Assessments: By using these tests, teachers can ascertain each student’s place in the learning process and modify their instruction accordingly. Teachers can also make adjustments in real time through formative exams, which emphasize the primary fields in which pupils still need to develop.
  • Digital Content Assessment: Making use of technology in the classroom helps streamline the evaluation procedure. Progress reporting and assessment are features of many software programs that help teachers to determine precisely the learning status of each student.

6. Students move forward when they demonstrate mastery

The faculty is able to determine where each student is in the learning path by taking into account data-based reports and frequent assessments. When students exhibit a thorough comprehension of the material, show how they have acquired critical abilities, and demonstrate that they can put that knowledge to use, it is acceptable to assume that they are ready to proceed.

  • Competency based education models: The foundation of an effective education system is comprised of four competency-based education frameworks. By creating precise guidelines for experience and culture, they collaborate and mentor one another to give students the greatest education possible.
  • Competency-based education software for hassle-free journey: With the use of educational ERP software that can monitor and manage students’ learning outcomes, the CBE education process can be expedited and simplified. In our capacity as educators, we have to choose software that successfully incorporates the CBE principle. It will ensure the greatest instructional methods while greatly saving our time and effort. 
  • Direct Assessment Models: These models use performance assessments, projects, tests, portfolios, and other direct assessment techniques to show that students have mastered the necessary skills. These tests are intended to assess students’ readiness for advancement and are usually linked to certain learning objectives.
  • Hybrid Models: Hybrid models blend traditional teaching strategies with components of competency-based education. These models could include competency-based components in already-existing courses or programs, or they might include competency-based evaluations in addition to traditional coursework.
  • Fully Integrated CBE Programs: The foundational goal of fully integrated CBE programs is to give competency-based learning top priority. Personalized learning pathways, competency-based assessments conducted at various points during the learning process, and modularized curriculum are common features of these programs.

Competency Based Education Examples

Some examples of competency based education are discussed below

  • Due to their intense love of Pokemon, one of the kids found it difficult to focus during the maths lecture and comprehend the necessary arithmetic concepts. Upon discovering the student’s ardour for the animation, the instructor devised a customized task for him, using inspiration from his personal collection of Pokemon cards. By appealing to the student’s interests, the instructor was able to help him solve the problems and demonstrate his understanding of important mathematical concepts.
  • Instructors may request learners produce a web-based video dissertation or a virtual portfolio. Competency-based learning is predicated on giving learners the opportunity to demonstrate their understanding of the material through assessments like these. The instructor may subsequently alter the following lecture or schedule one-on-one time with those students who showed poorer comprehension of the material.
  • Teachers can design spiral evaluations by selecting specific subjects to cover, which are then updated for students while they are playing the game. They can then review the topic coverage report to see how much each kid has covered and where they are having difficulties.

Challenges and Criticisms of Competency-Based Education

While competency-based education offers many potential benefits, it also presents several challenges and criticisms, including:

  • Curriculum Design Complexity: Designing and implementing competency-based curricula can be complex and resource-intensive, requiring careful alignment of competencies, assessments, and instructional materials.
  • Assessment Validity and Reliability: Ensuring the validity and reliability of competency-based assessments can be challenging, particularly when assessing complex skills or competencies that are difficult to measure objectively.


All students must be prepared for success in the modern world by switching from the traditional educational paradigm to one that upholds equity and encourages in-depth learning and involvement from their teachers. The use of competency-based education, which is intended to address this issue, is expanding quickly. By creating a shared understanding of the essential components of competency-based systems, the updated definition of competency-based education will contribute to the development of the field. Supporting the development and execution of the efficient, superior processes required to guarantee every student’s success are the believe statements, frequently asked questions, and other materials that go along with them.

Dr. Seema Rohilla

Dr. Seema Rohilla

Professor, Geeta Institute of Pharmacy