OBE is not sustainable in SI - Solomon Star News

OBE is not sustainable in SI

31 October 2012

There might be merits in OBE but what concern me most was the lack of consultation and proper debate on OBE and the speed at which it was introduced. OBE will affect the future of Solomon Islands in a drastic way, either for good or for worse.

Hence, careful consideration, wide consultation and informed debate should have taken place before OBE was introduced. 

To date, even Parliament has not debate on it. In my personal perspective I claim that OBE is not good and will not work in SI and it would destroy the intellectual capacity of our beloved nation (SI) in the long run. This paper explores briefly the background information of outcomes-based education, its weaknesses, and what other countries say about outcomes-based education. Without wasting much time, I will now go into real business of my discussion.

Where did Outcomes come from?

Before William Spady came into the picture, Benjamin Bloom came up with his theory of Mastery learning. Mastery learning failed in the US and had been rejected outright. After five years, in January of 1980 William Spady convened a meeting to propose the implementation of OBE philosophy where Bloom was also present and said this ‘OBE is a new name for Mastery as it had been destroyed by poor implementation.

William Spady is the director of the High Success Network and Director of the International Centre on Outcomes-Based Restructuring. He is the ‘father of OBE’.He works with the Federal Government of the USA and has a lot of influence over, states and schools by helping them to implement OBE. He is a sociologist with theories of ‘socialisation’ on global terms.

OBE has been designed to prove his theories. He started the theory and philosophy of OBE in 1982 in the United States.

Due to his influence he convinced many states to implement OBE.  By the early 1990s many States in the USA rejected OBE as it failed to help students to progress academically.

Many parents have argued that OBE is egalitarian and it has not provided the best kind of education for its people.

The parents and concerned citizens argue that OBE has its basis in mastery learning which was thrown out of the education system. Some Americans even go as far as saying that OBE has Nazism and One World Order elements.

In the US, after experimenting with OBE during the 90s, the vast majority of the states have now moved to what is termed a standards approach to curriculum (see Shanker 1993, & Manno 1994). And the reason  as to why OBE was dropped in favour of a standards approach curriculum is because a standards approach, when compare to OBE, is more academic in focus, relates to specific year levels, unambiguous and curriculum descriptors are expected to be concise, measurable and based on academic disciplines.

What other countries say about OBE

The philosophy of OBE also planted in countries like Australia, South Africa, and New Zealand and recently Papua New Guinea (PNG) also got hooked onto it. Given the central role OBE has played in Australian education since the early 90s, there appeared concrete evidence, demonstrating that OBE had been not preparing younger generation for another academic competitive level.

When compared OBE to an objective approach, OBE is conceptually flawed and difficult to implement. This leads to the once bright promise of subject area standards (OBE), has faded under a wide array of criticisms, and the movement itself is bogged down under its own weight.

Thus, the former Australian education minister Dr Brenden Nelson has reportedly described OBE as a ‘’ cancer ‘’ and Australian education expert Kevin Donnelly reports that ‘’the adoption of outcomes-based education (in the USA) is considered a failed and largely irrelevant experiment. The Victorian government education committee chairman, Mitch Field has reportedly described outcomes-based education curriculum a ‘’a failed experiment that should be declared DOA (dead on arrival).

In the Western Australia they are now reintroducing syllabus documents that specify clear learning objectives and traditional methods of making students work in a clear move away from outcomes-based education. An independent review of Western Australia’s education system found that the states implementation of OBE since 1998 ‘’cannot be regarded as a success.

In 1995, University of Sydney professor, Ken Etlis, published his findings on outcomes-based education curriculum that there was ‘’no evidence that the approach has been successfully implemented anywhere in the world.

South Africa is another country that had introduced an outcomes-based approach to curriculum development. Of interest, as occurred in the US following the introduction of OBE, is that there is also opposition to what has become the new orthodoxy in designing the intended curriculum.

South African teachers faced similar problems to their English colleagues when attempting to introduce OBE into South African schools Jansen and Christie (1999). A South African secondary school principal, Dr Malcolm Venter (2000), in a paper presented at the Australian Principals Associations Professional Development council

(apadc) Conference 2000, presented a range of OBE criticisms that can be summarised as follows.

•        Weakening the idea of striving for success by eliminating the concept of failure

•        Unduly emphasising criterion referenced assessment to the detriment of norm referenced assessment

•        Unfairly increasing the workload on teachers by imposing an individual-based, diagnostic assessment regime

•        Reducing the emphasis on subject knowledge in preference to skills and process

•        Being couched in education jargon that disempowers  and alienates classroom teachers

To-date many South Africans secondary schools and primary schools have (now) moved (back) to a more academically based, that is an objective curriculum and the OBE is regarded as a null and void.

In the South Pacific region, PNG is one of the country in which OBE is introduced since 2000, by the controversial Curriculum Reform Implementation Project (CRIP) sponsored by AusAID. CRIP consisted of a team of education consultants most of whom are expatriates who had never taught in a PNG classroom before.

They worked with a team of counterparts in the PNG departments of education, most of whom have never heard of OBE before, were not aware of its failures overseas, and were not in a good position to evaluate its sustainability for PNG schools.

However, during the course of the implementation of OBE in the elementary schools, lower primary schools and upper secondary schools in PNG, there was a growing realisation that the new approach was irrelevant in the context of PNG and difficult to implement.

In that situation, a number of papers and reports raised a numbers of criticism and concerns, summarised as follows.

•        OBE curriculum development is occurring far removed from the realities of the classroom and unresponsive to the needs of teachers and students

•        The difficulties involved in managing and recording individual student assessment as a result of adopting criterion-based, continuous and diagnostic approach to assessment

•        A superficial and patchy nature of the outcome descriptors that work against the acquisition of essential knowledge, understanding  and skills associated with the subject disciplines

•        The excessive number of curriculum outcomes, especially at the primary school level, that overwhelm teachers and promote a check list mentality in deciding what should be taught

•        Outcomes-based education is inward looking; it trains and prepares students to go back to their villages

And two weeks ago, Prime Minister of PNG Peter O’Neil has reported in a National Paper cover headline of Friday 12th October 2012, he wants OBE to be abolished and reintroduced an objective curriculum. The reason for ‘’ OBE out and objective in ‘’ is because Outcomes-based education is not providing a quality education for indigenous Papua New Guineans ever since its establishment in PNG. Currently a selected groups of potential bureaucracy educationalist is now working on exist

strategy for OBE and soon probably next year 2013 objective curriculum would be reintroduced and implemented in the education system.

My experience

I was one of the fortunate Solomon Islander students currently studying at the University of Goroka, PNG.

However, it was a great joy for me to team up with many in-service students and the majority of them are implementers of OBE for the last twelve (12) years in PNG.

Prior to my departure for this coming Christmas holiday in Solomon Island I made a thorough interviewed with my fellow colleagues based on outcomes-based education approach in PNG.

Surprisingly the responses from the bulk of the in-service students were in favour of objectives approach. Some criticisms of OBE can be summarised as:

•        OBE downplays intellectuals development and in the long-run, there will be a shortage of intellectuals

•        OBE is a complex curriculum system to be implemented with inadequate resources

•        Another drawback of OBE is that the demand on teacher’s time and resources required to teach is astronomical and unsustainable in the long-run

This generates a much higher perception and assessment workload for teachers because each student is allowed some flexibility to work at his or her own pace and the teacher have to be able to support and observe students working at different levels at the same time in the classroom. If you think this sound like a nightmare for teachers-you are right.

And if you are worried OBE might lead to lower academic standards-you are not alone. How can we expect students to create their own knowledge in these circumstances? It sounds illogical.

Therefore, OBE is a flashy curriculum that had to implement; and an objective is an intention, an idea of what is expected to happen. It has no definite indications of whether it may happen or not. A well define Objective and well focused activity will bring fort a good result or what is normally termed as ‘achieving the objective’.


Solomon Island should have a very good lesson to learn from countries that have implemented and found weakness in the OBE philosophy.

The Curriculum planners and developers need to fully understand the philosophical basis from which OBE sets its foundation.

SI also needs to know if the founders of OBE are educationalist or sociologist.  

The curriculum decision makers must not succumb to foreign ideology, which foreigners try to force upon us to accept without questioning.SI must show its intellectual capacity and ability to question what types of practices are good for SI.

Prior to introduction of OBE approach in SI national education system, SI need to think otherwise, or perhaps, our beloved nation might loss its resources and so much millions of dollars. In my capacity as a curriculum major, I claim OBE is not an appropriate curriculum for Solomon Island education system.

The only sustainable approach for mass education in SI is a prescriptive, relevant and academically sound Objectives-based curriculum supported with teacher-based materials that are particular for use in large classrooms with few resources, normative assessment that enables us to compare results from school to school and fairly

select the better students for the limited places we have available at higher learning institutions.

I believe OBE is not suitable for SI.

At this level, students need to be taught and nurture in order to lay proper foundation. The best way forward for our country is to adapt Objective-based. God bless Solomon Islands!


By Johnson Kengalu Oge
Curriculum Major Student
University of Goroka,