CBE as a New Trend in America’s Education: Breaking Free From Convention

By Tomoki Hotta Vice Chancellor Babel Professional School of Translation (USA)

Last year, president Obama announced at Capital Hill that Competency Based Education (CBE), a new form of education, would be eligible for federal scholarships. Having passed through the House of Representatives, CBE is said to to be the new trend in U.S. education. CBE goes beyond the conventional education framework delineated by learning materials, classrooms, course credits, hours and terms of study, and credit fees. It is an attempt whose objective is based on the competency, an integration of knowledge, ability, and attitude, in evaluating and obtaining learning results.

CBE is intended to liberalize education for students going beyond the conventional learning methods of reading, writing, and arithmetic. CBE is also closely related to the recent problem solving and active learning methods, all of which are a form of breaking away from pure knowledge based education. For instance, such countries as England, Finland, and Belgium, require children to learn programming starting at the age of five. This kind of education runs along the same lines as CBE regarding objectives.

Although the definition for CBE is still being determined, 34 U.S. universities have declared that they are using this new education model.

The background behind this liberal system of higher education spreading throughout the U.S. is:
Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs): Enormous amounts of free learning material which has been made available to the public.
 Behind this is the emergence of instructional designers, who are professionals in creating learning materials.
 The rapid increase in online and integrated blended learning rather than inconvenient conventional campus style learning.
 People have begun learning in various styles due to the advancements listed above.

Competency Based Education includes the following characteristics:

1) Evaluation rather than learning materials; emphasis on evaluation.

2) Coordination with certification tests.

3) Cooperation between industries and the academic world; career-focused education.

4) High degree of freedom in choosing subjects.

5) Emphasis on mentoring approach to instruction rather than just “teaching”.

6) Prior learning assessments included; actual performance taken into consideration.

Since Babel Professional School of Translation (BUPST) is a professional school the basis of consideration differs to some degree, but the following is a brief self- summary based on the following viewpoints:

1) Does BUPST make clear the competencies that are demanded of translators? YES

*See attached table (the Institute of Translation and Interpreting (ITI) is a British translation association)

2) Are learning curriculums structured around these competencies? YES

3) Are evaluation methods centered around proficiency rather than mere intellectual achievement? YES

BUPST is associated with the Japan Translation Association’s various certification exams (five-step evaluation process). Course credits are given for certification.

4) Is learning at BUPST directly linked to cooperation between industry and academics, and to the career plans of students? YES

BUPST is made up of alliances with Babel Group’s business and publication translation businesses, copyright agents, and staffing agencies, making it a truly corporate university.

5) Is there a degree of freedom in selecting subjects? YES

No matter what major students choose, they can take courses in other majors, and can earn course credit by participating in projects such as translation publication workshops.

6) Do programs have a mentor-style approach? YES

All students are assigned to a full-time counselor. Career consulting, learning counseling, and IT counseling are also available.

7) Is prior learning evaluated? YES

Credits are given for prior studies, certifications, and translation work.

The points above summarizes how BUPST is in step with competency based education, the new trend in advanced education in the US.

While I have not studied about CBE in depth and do not provide a full summary here, learning about CBE has been a great opportunity for me to consider new trends in education.

I have brought up various issues beginning with the proactive use of MOOCs and other new advancements in hopes of renewing our thinking in taking professional schools of translation to the next level.