Outcome-based Education: Changing the way Filipinos approach learning
In today’s society, success is measure by how much one has achieved in school and how well one performs in examinations and tests. But as industries demand from their workers more skills in lieu of ideas and theories, what does the future hold for Filipino graduates whose worth is measured by ranks and numbers?
Dr. William Spady thinks that Filipinos are a very talented and thinking people, but they are in danger of becoming out of sync with the world’s demand for skilled workers. “It can be hampered by an education system that is not responsive to their needs,” he said.
His name may not ring a bell to students and their parents, but to educators and school experts, he is considered a global luminary and expert. After all, he is the Father of Outcome-Based Education (OBE), a strategic approach to learning that has since been a norm in the US, EU, India, Malaysia and many countries. He introduced OBE in 1968, and since 2015 he has been coming back to the Philippines regularly to introduce the philosophy to many school administrators and academics.
“We are here to change the way Filipinos approach learning and use it to maximize their potentials,” he said during the recent launch of the Spady & Uy Center for Transformational Learning and Leadership.
OBE, according to Spady, was initially his solution to a system of learning that has beleaguered the American education system in the 60s to 80s. He foresaw that high school and college graduates would not be able to cope with the demands of a fast-paced society because of the lack of skills that could have been learned in school.
“Many of those who come out of school are measured by tests like SAT or licensure exams. While they perform well in grades, many of them do not do well in real-life situations in work that require skills,” he explained.
In his landmark book, Outcome-Based Education: Critical Issues and Answers, OBE is about developing a clear set of learning outcomes around which all system components can be focused.
“Outcomes, in this case, are learning results that we want students to demonstrate at the end of significant learning experiences,” he said.
Because outcomes are measured by actual implementation of skills learned from classroom teaching and self-discovery rather than purely mental processes, learners are expected to describe, explain, design or produce at the end of a lesson, rather than know, understand, believe and think. He illustrated this with a more concrete example: a student is tasked to explain how to build a chair using available materials. Rather than merely asking a student how the process is done, he is expected to produce one based on how he implements a set of instructions.
“Technical skills are very much essential in OBE,” he revealed, which goes back to at least half a millennium ago. “People long ago learned by joining craft guilds and becoming apprentices. These have not changed, as far as I know. Skills that require performance are important in training pilots, doctors and even cosmetologists and hair dressers.”
While there are clear differences between OBE and traditional teaching methods, Spady clarified that what is important is how a learner comes to terms with the things he learns from school.
“On the one hand, you can say that it is not at all that different but on the other hand, it is dramatically different because it doesn’t start with the curriculum categories that we have in current subjects. What is the bigger purpose that we have education, and for universities, what kind of professionals do they want to send out to the world?”
OBE also aims that there will be no learners left behind. “We recognize that all students can learn and succeed, but not on the same day and in the same way,” he said. In the current system, students are given different curricula and learning opportunities, and in the process, fast learners gain ahead and slow learners are left behind given a prescriptive time period.
Also, outcome-based learning goes beyond the need for paper and pencil tests to assess a student’s success in learning skills. Dr. Spady thinks that society’s obsession with top-notchers has twisted how people deal with learning.
“We used to live in a world where book learners are rewarded and skilled learners relegated to do the rough work,” he commented.
The winds have changed though; skilled workers like chefs, designers, musicians and artisans can now be as “prized” as doctors, lawyers and accountants.
Paradigm shift in PH education
Dr. Spady expressed his enthusiasm with Philippine schools’ growing interest with his educational philosophy, and in 2015, he established, with Dr. Francis Aldrine A. Uy (Dean of the Mapua Institute of Technology and pioneering advocate of OBE in the Philippines) the Spady & Uy Center in order to certify schools and educators who want to implement OBE in their learning systems not only in the Philippines but also in Asia. They have also partnered with the Resource for Educators and Academic Professionals (REAP), an organization that helps train educators through enhancement workshops and seminars.
Nevertheless, Dr. Spady thinks that OBE implementation or adaptation might take time to sink in. “It will take a while for people to accept change, but it will happen. [OBE] will evolve in the Philippines one institution at a time,” he admitted.
Presently, OBE has gone full blast in institutions like the Saint Paul educational network (St. Paul University QC and Manila and St. Paul’s College units all over the country) and University of Mindanao. Other institutions are following suit like Our Lady of Fatima University system and University of Makati. Spady & Uy Center is also collaborating with the Professional Regulations Commission (PRC) on a program and they are also in regular dialogue with the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) and the Department of Education (DepEd) on certain programs where OBE might be of help.
In a nutshell, Spady emphasized that OBE is all about changes in perspective toward learner empowerment and life performance. “An outcome is a culminating demonstration of learning,” he said.
“Outcomes are not content; they are performances. The promise of transformational OBE should be leading, inspiring and empowering.”