The paper includes recommendations on curriculum trends likely to remain prominent for managing the interests of state and federal governments, the needs of individual students, the academic freedom of teachers, and the requirements of employers and the community.
Jackson's statement is part of a debate on competency based education and training (CBET) that has gone on for decades despite wide acceptance in a growing number of developed and developing countries. Stevenson and Brown (1994) state that the main point of contention is the answer to the following question: what is the purpose of education The varied answers explain why educators and policymakers are divided into three camps: those who see CBET as a pariah, as a panacea, or as neither of the two (Bowden, 1998). Hager (1994, cited in Jones, 1999, p. 156) traces these debates to the longstanding dispute on "vocational versus general education" and to the main issue of whether and to what extent vocationalism should drive education (Kerka, 1998).
CBET started out as a system of vocational instruction in U.S. factories early in the last century. Having experienced its effectiveness, U.S. policymakers applied competency based methods to teacher training in the late 1960s and used it a decade later to reform the curricula in other professions (Bowden, 1998). Its relative success helped it spread to other countries, notably the U.K., Australia, and New Zealand in the 1980s (Herschbach, 1991, p.3).
CBET curriculum and its significance
The evolution from competency based training (CBT) to CBET is evident in the design of a competency based curriculum that, like an evolving living creature, reflects the "genetic code" of its conceptual ancestors. Not only does the competency based curriculum of, say, a course in medicine adopt key principles from CBT, but the competency based curriculum of, say, a vocational training course in metalworking contains key points from the general education curriculum. The end result is a curriculum that educates skilled workers 'to think' and trains educated professionals 'to be practical' (Gonczi, Hager & Oliver, 1990 and Masters & McCurry, 1990 cited in Jennings, 1991, p. 3).
A competency based curriculum is marked by efficiency: with clear measurable objectives determined by competency patterns, lessons delivered following an ordered sequence of instruction related to the objectives through the use of highly organized instructional systems, and performance measured by assessing outcomes specified in the objectives (Bowden, 1998; Molnar and Zahorik, 1977 cited in Herschbach, 1991, p. 2).
The competency based curriculum, therefore, hinges on two key definitions: competence and assessment (Jones, 1999, p.147). Who defines and assesses competence is what brings the debate deep into the political arena.
An elaborate infrastructure for reform
The wide acceptance of the competency based curriculum relies on a structured system of formulation and implementation. As Bowden (1998, citing Humphrey 1992, p. 61) points out, competency based curriculum standards are determined by the needs of employment and not merely on doubtful assumptions about workplace needs.
The employment system - business and industry