The School of Engineering vouches for Competence Based Learning and Green skilling for better graduates

Photo moment for the stakeholders that participated in the discussion of green skilling and competence-based assessment framework in engineering programs at Makerere University.

The School of Engineering, College of Engineering, Design, Art and Technology (CEDAT) in a bid to improve the teaching and learning of engineering students convened a stakeholder engagement to discuss green skilling and competence-based assessment framework in engineering programs at Makerere University.

(L_R) Dr. Peter Olupot, Head of Mechanical Engineering, Dr. Dorothy Okello, Dean School of Engineering, Dr. Abubaker Matovu Waswa, Ag. Head Electrical and Engineering Department spearheaded the discussions

The discourse was held on Wednesday 26th June 2024 at the CEDAT conference hall attracting the participation of academia, the industry, and other key stakeholders pertinent to the promotion of quality teaching and learning like the National Curriculum Development Centre and the Directorate of Research and Graduate Training (DRGT), with the main purpose of inputting into the ongoing efforts by the School of Engineering to improve the quality of graduates produced

Assoc. Prof. Dorothy Okello, the Dean School of Engineering, in her welcome remarks, said the discourse was one of the strategies laid out to facilitate the process of improving the quality of graduates that the college was sending out to the world of work.  She said with support from the UNESCO China Funds in Trust in 2013, the School of Engineering published reports on Labor Market Analysis and a Tracer study for engineering graduates that highlighted the employment status of the graduates which established where and whether they were employed or not or had left the profession.  She said the studies also evaluated the situation at the college to assess the internal readiness in training the graduates.

Some of the participants listen to the presentations

Dr. Okello said the reports indicated that the graduates were not a good match for the outside and hence the need to work towards nurturing products who are well prepared and therefore trainable in the respective areas of work where they end up.
She said there were many ongoing changes in the education terrain citing the new curriculum for O-level which students will end up in the University and therefore an imperative to make adequate preparations because of the need for people able to design as the profession demands.

Looking at the training and the pedagogical aspects of many of many of us, the fact of the matter is that the teachers here excelled in many areas, but needed to be imparted with the necessary skills for them to transfer the knowledge to the students, she observed.

She said, that the School of Engineering embarked on a self-assessment initiative to determine whether they were giving students the right competencies.  The internship and industrial training feedback from various agencies taking on the students were both positive and negative and this pointed to a need for a shift in the teaching and learning from what one can know to more of what one can do. How can we work with aspects of competencies with the students while they are still here and instill in them the lifelong learning attribute as dictated by the 4th industry revolution, she pondered while enlisting input from the stakeholders.

The Dean further emphasized the need to realign around competency-based training as well as soft skills.  She said for the college to excel, the stakeholders especially those in the Industry that take on the engineering graduates needed to take part in the ongoing discussions and contribute to refining the proposals. She noted that the program as it is now did not teach teamwork and mentorship as prescribed in Competency-based Assessment and also urged the stakeholders to support the identification of final-year student projects that will offer solutions to real problems in the industry. 

Dr. Timothy Tebenkana Senior Lecturer from CEES introduced the concept and practice of CBL

Dr. Timothy Tebenkana Senior Lecturer, College of Education and External Education (CEES) introduced to the forum the concept and practice of Competence Based Education and Assessment.  He explained that CBA focuses on what the learner can do, the acquisition of practical skills, and gives feedback about student learning. He said the competencies needed to be identified before setting the exams for the learner to be objectively assessed.

The representative of the National Curriculum Development Centre (NCDC) Mr. Gilbert Gift Siima

The representative of the National Curriculum Development Centre (NCDC) Mr. Gilbert Gift Siima, who is the Manager Secondary Department explained that competence-based assessment was directly aligned with the curriculum.  He noted that people acquire a lot of knowledge but lack how to put it into action and this called for learning, unlearning, and relearning a lot of things about CBL. You should be able to have a continuous assessment for learning which requires the students to improve, an assessment as learning where learners can critique themselves and learn from it and
provide a comprehensive view of progress.

Dr. Peter Olupot, the Head of the Mechanical Engineering Department made a presentation of the draft CBA and green skilling framework for engineering programs to the participants.  He observed that the education systems were changing and new learning settings coming on board citing the example of the rapid changes in technology which requires adaptability. He said the curriculum was designed but the employer needed specific skills, knowledge, and competencies and therefore the need to move away from knowledge to competence-based teaching and learning.

He said through the China Funds in Trust support, the School of Engineering identified skills gaps, mismatches leading to high graduate unemployment, and a shortage of skilled persons to drive economic growth. This, he said, was a call for increased collaboration between higher education institutions and the private sector or employers for sustainable skills development. He said the findings of the studies were an indicator that the programs may not prepare students for jobs in the next years.

The School will form a panel of experts in engineering disciplines that would propel the initiative in advancing the training of engineers with technical competencies, critical thinking, and creativity. 

Dr. Robinah Kulabako, Head of Civil and Environmental Engineering, and Prof. John Baptist Kirabira from Mechanical Engineering were part of the discussions

In 2022, the School of Engineering undertook studies on Labor Market Analysis, the Graduate Tracer Study, and the Curriculum Readiness Assessment. Some of the recommendations included updating the curriculum to align with Industry trends, enhancing practical skills, field visits, and hands-on exposures, as well as improving mentorship programs and innovation and practical experiences.

Click here to access gallery