Understanding a Competency-Based Curriculum and Education: The Zambian Perspective

  • Innocent Mutale Mulenga The University of Zambia
  • Yvonne Malambo Kabombwe The University of Zambia


The rapid and intricate changes in society in the last decades have brought about significant challenges and novel responsibilities especially to the field of curriculum development and education. The past education traditionally thinking of acquiring as much knowledge as possible has hence been overtaken by the new task of modern society which is exposed to an immense amount of knowledge and information. The new challenge in education is therefore to select the highest quality of knowledge and make effective use of it. Thus, a curriculum being a means through which education systems help its citizens acquire desirable knowledge, skills, values and attitudes, must seek to overcome the narrow-minded past of traditional syllabi or written plans and to focus on providing learners with the ability to acquire, develop and apply knowledge, values and attitudes which should lead to the utilization of skills. In order to meet these concerns, a number of countries in Africa, such as South Africa, Tanzania, Rwanda, Kenya, Mozambique Zimbabwe and Zambia have since the year 2000 moved away from a content based curriculum to competency or outcomes-based curriculum in their education systems. However, the majority of ideas and arguments regarding a competency-based curriculum still remain as mere discourse and have yet to demonstrate how key competencies can be developed by learners through a school curriculum. Such a situation has partly been propelled by the lack of understanding of what a competency-based curriculum is all about. Using some examples, from the Zambian experience of curriculum review which commenced in 2013 and concluded in 2017, scholars in this paper explain the key principles that constitute a competency-based curriculum, using examples from the 2013 Zambian Curriculum Framework Policy (ZCFP) and the Teacher’s Curriculum Implementation Guide (TCIG). After making a distinction between competence and competency, the authors provide a historical and fundamental premise of a competency-based education. The measurements of intent in a competency-based curriculum have been explained too while a detailed description of the components of a competency curriculum has been given to shade more light on the concept and how the curricular in question can be assessed.