NCERT launched a 4-week activity-based academic calendar to help students deal with the Covid-19 pandemic by rethinking how we carry out education. These academic calendars were launched by HRD Minister Ramesh Nishank Pokhriyal in April-May 2020.

A similar NCERT alternative academic calendar will also be released soon for students of classes 11 and 12.

These alternative academic calendars focus on learning outcomes by employing interesting projects, do-it-yourselfs etc.

The information was shared in a CBSE notification dated May 14 about the alternative academic calendar by NCERT, information about competency based education (CBE) and the role of school principals in its implementation.

As per the CBSE notification, NCERT had stated: “the week-wise plan consists of interesting activities and challenges, with reference to chapter/theme from the textbook. Most importantly, it maps the themes with the learning outcomes.”

“The purpose of mapping of themes with learning outcomes is to facilitate teachers/parents to assess the progress in students’ learning. However, it is reiterated that the focus should be on learning, rather than testing for scores,” NCERT had added.

Focus on learning outcomes instead of marks, says CBSE circular

Since CBSE has been focusing on learning outcomes in recent years, the circular strongly suggested that schools should focus on learning and its outcomes rather than exams and marks.

The CBSE circular went on to state the various aspects of Competency-Based Learning (CBL) so that school principals and teachers could understand it better.

What is Competency-Based Learning all about?

It described the background of CBL and the need for it since a National Achievement Survey (NAS) discovered major learning problems in classes 3, 5, 8, and 10.

“Competency is a set of skills, abilities, knowledge that helps an individual perform a given task in real life. Every learning should go into the imbibing of skills that will help the individual perform tasks ‘or take actions to lead a productive and joyful life,” it stated.

“Are we in our schools teaching our children to handle themselves and their lives well, or are we simply teaching-to-test? We need to mull on this,” it said.

“Competency-based learning or Competency based Education (CBE) is an outcomebased approach to education to ensure proficiency in learning by students through demonstration of the knowledge, skills, values and attitudes required for dealing with real life situations at the age and grade appropriate level,” the CBSE circular added.

The circular explained more about the Right to Education Act and CBSE’s directions on learning outcomes.

It also stated the important characteristics of the Competency Based Education model with reference to the four pillars of education system — Objective, Content, Pedagogy, and Assessment.

Most importantly, the CBSE circular gives a vast amount of information and a long list of suggestions and concepts regarding what Learning Outcomes are, how they can be implemented in schools, and important documents for the same.

It also listed suggestions for CBSE school principals on how to implement Competency Based Education in their schools.

Relation between Competency-based Education and Learning Outcomes

The circular also gave the following relationship table between CBSE and Learning Outcomes.

Measures initiated by CBSE for a learning outcome-based education

CBSE has implemented all the above principles to transform education and make it more based on learning outcomes rather than marks over the last two academic sessions, stated the notification.

Here are the main measures highlighted:

Over the period of the last two academic sessions, the Board has already implemented all the above principles to transform education towards an outcomes- based approach and more competency-oriented, by initiating many measures. Some of them are highlighted below:

1. Competency-Based Education to be the Annual Theme of Training in 2020-21:

In continuation of its training policy, CBSE has decided to make Competency-Based Education as the annual theme of training in the session 2020-21. The Board will shortly come out with an online teacher training module on DIKSHA on CBE.

2. Implementation of Experiential Learning/Active Learning/Innovative Pedagogies:

CBSE has mandated implementing Experiential Learning/Active Learning/Innovative Pedagogies in all its schools. This has also been the annual theme of training in the session 2019-20.

Further, CBSE has released a Handbook on Experiential Learning which is available here.

3. Creative and Critical Thinking Practice:

As per a CBSE circulated dated January 8, 2020, CBSE had started the Creative and Critical Thinking (CCT) Weekly Practice Programme to enhance critical thinking skills of the students.

CCT items on Reading, Mathematics, and Science Literacy are uploaded on a weekly basis on DIKSHA for students of classes 7 to 10. New questions for CCT practice are uploaded every Monday and answers are shared by Thursday.

The CCT questions and solutions can be accessed through the following URL.

Given the success of this programme, it will soon be extended to other grades.

4. Strengthening Assessment Practices:

CBSE has introduced 20% Case Based Questions in class 10 and 10% Case Based Questions in class 12 board examinations in all subjects.

These Case Based Questions are necessarily itemized with real-life connect for assessing competencies in each subject. Further reforms are on the anvil and will be announced shortly.

The CBSE circular stated that all the above measures would reinforce each other “if Principals assume Pedagogical Leadership and ensure quality education through implementation of competency- based education focussing on attainment of Learning Outcomes by every learner, to the fullest extent possible.”

Undersigned by Dr Joseph Emmanuel, Director of Academics, CBSE, the circular said, “As all Principals have the most crucial and trend-setting role in ensuring that teaching-to-learn and learning-to-learn happens and not teaching-to-test, it is expected that all of you will lead the transformation of making education truly competency-based.”

Here’s the link to the detailed CBSE notification which contains the annexures with detailed lesson plans with learning outcomes for teachers to carry out competency-based learning while following the NCERT alternate academic calendar.

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