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Aurora Institute

Learning from the EU

CompetencyWorks Blog

Author(s): Susan Patrick

Issue(s): Federal Policy, Create Space to Pilot Systems of Assessments

I’m just back from the EU Lifelong Learning VISCED meeting in England.  While there I had a chance to learn a bit more about the EU’s approach to competency education.

The EU Framework identifies Lifelong Learning Competencies as those that ‘all individuals need for personal fulfilment and development, active citizenship, social inclusion and employment’.

In the Key Competences for Lifelong Learning – A European Framework , they list 8 competencies:

1. Communication in the mother tongue

2. Communication in foreign languages

3. Mathematical competence and basic competences in science and technology

4. Digital competence

5. Learning to learn

6. Social and civic competences

7. Sense of initiative and entrepreneurship

8. Cultural awareness and expression

The report includes a definition and discussion on essential knowledge, skills and attitudes for each competency.

The more interesting report is Key Competencies in Europe: Opening Doors for Lifelong Learning Across the Curriculum and Teacher Education  offering insights into the experiences of different countries. In looking at implementation, the authors find:

The countries that seem to be particularly successful in implementing policies of cross-curricular key competences in their school systems efficiently use the following instruments:

  • Setting appropriate curriculum goals and standards;
  • Developing teacher competences;
  • Shaping school practices:
    • Innovation support; 
    • School development; 

    • Leadership.
  • Giving appropriate feedback through assessment and evaluation. 

The application of effective competence development oriented pedagogies in schools also needs appropriate resources. The pedagogy of competence development with its innovative learning environments, intensive use of ICT facilities, frequent and meaningful project work and teamwork, new assessment methods and various individualised techniques of organising learning is resource- demanding.”

There is a lot more to highlight from this report. Check out this example from Finland:

In Finland general education is mostly provided by local authorities. The education provider has a statutory duty to draw up a local curriculum, which translates the aims and contents nationally set in the Government Decree and core curricula into local practice. In its curriculum, the provider decides what elective subjects will be on offer in addition to the core subjects. These elective subjects supplement the teaching of art and skill subjects (KC: Cultural awareness and expression), foreign languages (KC: Communication in foreign languages) and IT (KC: Technology, digital competence) . . .

1.7.1 Assessment in general education

In basic education, pupils are assessed continuously and at the end of a course. Continuing, learning-oriented assessment is primarily intended to guide and encourage learning and help pupils become aware of the learning process and take responsibility for it. Pupils are not compared to each other. Assessment gives information to pupils and their parents about progress in relation to curricular objectives and the pupils’ own ability and aims.

For the purposes of assessment, the core curriculum contains descriptions of good knowledge, i.e. what is required for ’good’, expressed as the mark 8 (on a scale of 4 to 10). The description focuses on broad knowledge, not detailed rote learning. These broad skills include the key competencies ’learning to learn’ (setting goals for, planning and assessing one’s own learning), digital skills, social skills, initiative and entrepreneurship.

In the end-of-course assessment, the pupil’s knowledge and skills is assessed according to nationally set criteria against objectives set nationally for the syllabus. The criteria focus on the same broad competencies as the ongoing assessment.

In upper secondary education the students’ learning is assessed both on an ongoing basis and at the end of course. The school-leaving certificate shows the courses taken and the marks given. These are largely based on marks given for end-of-course tests. The assessment is made against objectives set nationally for the subjects and designed to encourage studies and develop the students’ skills in self-assessment.

In addition, upper secondary students take a national matriculation examination at the end of their secondary studies. This battery of tests measures how students have mastered the knowledge and skills determined in the curriculum and syllabi. Tests
 can be taken in mother tongue and literature, the second national language, foreign languages, mathematics and modern knowledge subjects. The grades given are nationally comparable.

. . . note how most international comparisons of Finland leave out the key details around the competency-based education that are fundamental — and systems of assessments that help moderate.  Also, note that it isn’t a system based on seat-time but on mastery throughout — competency.

The other part of the EU meeting is an overview of online learning around the EU and globally . . .but that’s for another blog . . .