Is It the End of the Semester System?

In higher education, the number of semesters represents how long you are going to school and the time you spend to learn. It is used as the yardstick or the standard for your training or schooling. But, just recently, competency-based education is being considered. Will this end the semester system?

“It’s a two-year course,” “the school offers a four-year education,” “I’m a fifth year student in this university,” “it will require you a two-semester training.” These are familiar statements in higher education because of the semester system. Semesters or academic years are basically the basis of how long you have been learning.

The use of the academic years, credit hours, or the semester system has been established and formalized since the early 1900s. School and universities worldwide adopted the system in which education is measured by the time you spent learning, not by how much you have learned. The semester system is the basis or the template for designing and creating college courses, programs and trainings, accrediting or certifying them and finally funding or financially backing them through the use of the federal student aid.

But just recently, for the first time in history, the Department of Education considered another option. It is about competency-based learning or education or simply direct assessment.

The idea is that universities and other educational institutions are allowed to get student-aid financial support or funding by creating and forming college programs that directly assess and measure learning instead of time spent for learning. With such idea, students are encouraged and allowed to learn or get education at their own pace. The university or the school measures and certifies what they have learned or what they know and what they are capable of and what they are able to do.

The competency-based education programs offer people the opportunity to learn even during their late 20s. In fact, research shows that the biggest pool of potential and current college students are not from the age bracket of 18 to 20 years old. It has been found out that people in early 20s and until late 30s are still trying to earn a second degree, have not yet completed their first degree, or are trying to update their skills and learnings.

This kind of learning allows and encourages people to study and be educated according to their own pace. It offers a chance for individuals who still hope to get higher education even if they are already passed the age that is believed to be the best time to acquire a degree.

The competency-based learning programs grant students the opportunity to fit and tailor learning and education around their life rather than them fitting their lives around a standard academic timetable. This then enables individuals who are already working to acquire higher education without constraint or pressure.

With these new education programs and the promising outcome and change it will give to people, schools, universities and other learning institutions, many are beginning to consider changing the semester system and adopting the competency-based education programs.

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