To assess the learning outcome of students for different grades, the Bhutan Council for School Examinations and Assessment (BCSEA) has been implementing competency-based assessment (CBA) since 2011.

The Council has been introducing five percent of the board questions on competency each year and 30 percent of the board questions for classes X and XII would be on competency this year.

The council aims to evaluate CBA system after it has implemented 50 percent.

Secretary of BCSEA, Tenzin Dorji, said competency consists of certain knowledge and skills acquired by the learner and having the ability to apply that knowledge and skills to accomplish desired tasks and solve problems within a defined context.

He added that to determine what competencies are worth pursuing to fulfill national goals and aspirations as reflected in the Bhutan Education Blueprint 2014-2024, BCSEA would focus on three of the nine attributes needed to cope with the challenges of the 21st century.

CBA would look at the first three attributes or competencies – knowledge and understanding, intellectual competence and communicative competence. “Although the other six attributes are equally important, literature from international studies done on 21st century competencies and skills confirm that we are talking about the three attributes reflected in our education blueprint,” Tenzin Dorji said.

Knowledge and understanding looks at whether the students have an in-depth understanding of concepts and principles, and if students are able to connect knowledge from curricular areas to enhance their understanding of the world.

He said that it would look at whether the students have the basic knowledge of each subject. “Knowing about a thing is not important but how you apply and utilise that information becomes critical.”

Intellectual competency looks at cognitive process such as the ability to analyse, interpret, innovate and create. Communicative competencies focus on how the students communicate.

Tenzin Dorji said that in the modern context, students should not only be fluent in English and Dzongkha but also have certain IT skills. “Every subject, not just English and Dzongkha should make sure that children could communicate well.”

CBA was also introduced as a year-end assessment in class III in 2012 and in class VI in 2014 to assess knowledge and skills acquired by the student at the end of the course of study.

BCSEA supported teachers in enhancing their understanding and teaching of CBA through teacher involvement in test development processes and development of teacher’s reference books.

Tenzin Dorji said the primary years are the most crucial formidable years where children acquire the skills to learn. “They read to learn. If we can assure that our children are learning what they are supposed to learn at that crucial level then we feel that academically they should not have problem progressing to the next stage,” he said. “We feel that BCSEA can take a lead role because if we change the way we ask questions, our teachers will have to teach that way.”

Karma Cheki