PBL skills for faculties across sub-Saharan Africa


Text Varpu Somersalo

A new generation of skilled and entrepreneurial graduates becomes reality through reforming the curricula from subject-based to competence-based. Two experienced pedagogical trainers from Finland held a virtual PBL training session for bioeconomy university academic faculty from Kenya, Nigeria, Tanzania and Uganda.


Word cloud with competence in centre

RUFORUM, in partnership with the Häme University of Applied Sciences (HAMK), organised a training for African academic faculty, titled Problem Based Learning: Delivering 21st Century Skills in Higher Education. The training focused on preparing university academic faculty to appreciate and adopt PBL based methodology in their teaching and learning processes.


Teachers should understand the competences that graduates will have at the end of the degree programme.

Dr. Eija Laitinen and senior lecturer Ulla-Maija Knuutti from HAMK explained how instead of concentrating on the knowledge that will be passed on to the students, teachers and university authorities should focus on the competences that the students will have upon graduation. Teachers and students alike should know the purpose of each course and understand the competences that graduates will have at the end of the degree programme. Sounds simple, but it makes a huge difference.


But what exactly is competence?


“Competence is not just about knowledge and skills. It is about being able to use the knowledge and skills”, Knuutti states.


In a competence-based curriculum, the methods of learning and teaching should also be described along with the aspired results. This is where problem-based learning (PBL) comes in. People learn best when they can apply new knowledge in real-life contexts. In solving a real problem in a real company, students need to figure out what they already know about the subject and what is the information and the abilities they yet need to gain for solving the problem.


Competence is not just about knowledge and skills. It is about being able to use the knowledge and skills.

“There is a huge difference in learning in a classroom or on the field. According to research, students that learn in real-life challenges alongside with the theoretical teaching graduate faster and with higher scores”, says Dr. Laitinen, the project manager of PBL-BioAfrica.


This training in PBL aligns with the overarching interest by RUFORUM under its TAGDev flagship. TAGDev accelerates the transformation of the African agricultural universities to contribute to growth and development. In particular, the programme focuses on delivery of quality education, training of practical and entrepreneurial graduates, and reforming and engaging universities.


The training was coordinated by Dr. Anthony Egeru, RUFORUM secretariat and administrator of the TAGDev programme. Dr. Egeru emphasises the synergies with the programme and PBL-BioAfrica.


“This partnership with HAMK helps to make the transformation in agricultural education a reality in the near-term”, he says.