The Failure of Competence-Based Education and the Demand for Bildung

London: Bloomsbury (forthcoming)
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In this monograph we contrast two prominent models of education, Competence-Based Education (CBE), more recent and currently dominant in most school systems of the world, and Bildung-Oriented Education (BOE), once the basis of school systems of Northern Europe. CBE interprets learning as the acquisition of clearly definable and allegedly measurable competences, and is supported by supranational organisations, such as the OECD, which approach education from the perspective of the human capital theory. BOE instead characterises learning holistically as aimed at the progressive articulation of a meaningful ‘big picture’ in the student’s mind. Emerged in Northern Europe under the influence of the ideals of the Enlightenment and Neo-Humanism of individual and collective autonomy and responsibility, BOE was subsequently enriched with a hermeneutical approach to teaching and socio-political objectives of emancipation and solidarity originating within Critical Theory. We argue that, in spite of its celebrated ‘scientificity’, CBE is internally incoherent and unreliable, contributes to structural forms of oppression and injustice, fosters social pathologies, and fails to provide students with the kind of intellectual autonomy they need as both human beings and citizens of our complex post-industrial societies. We also defend BOE from objections made by critical theorists, poststructuralists and postcolonial thinkers, and argue that it is a coherent and flexible model of education that endows students with autonomy and responsibility, and can help heal social pathologies.

Author Profiles

Luca Moretti
University of Aberdeen
Alessia Marabini
University of Aberdeen


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