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Competency Framework – V.A.R.I.E.D model

Competency Framework Project – A Thought


–         John

The Story of a Raindrop[1]

A raindrop fell from a spring cloud, and, seeing the wide expanse of the sea, was shamed. “Where the sea is,” it reflected, “Where am I? Compared with that, forsooth, I am extinct.”

      While thus regarding itself with an eye of contempt, an oyster took it to its bosom, and Fate so shaped its course that eventually the raindrop became a famous royal pearl. It was exalted, for it was humble. Knocking at the door of extinction, it became existent.

–        Sheikh Muslih-uddin Sa’di Shirazi

What is Competency Framework Project?

Students who enter AIU with a feeling of insignificance would be made great as the humble raindrop at the end became a famous royal pearl. AIU’s Competency Framework Project (CFP) is such, like an oyster, would shape the ordinary to the extraordinary, making every student complete, total and humanitarian students with values and skills needed to make this world a peaceful place for all diverse communities to live amicably. At the end of the day, the students who would walk out of AIU would go out to the world as peace ambassadors and live as model human beings with values. In practical terms, students would involve in carefully selected community service projects, and get shaped by close assistance and facilitation by the staff. I would be happy to call this project Life Competency Project (LCP) as it prepares students for complete and full life.

Perspective of Competency Framework Project:

CFP puts its stress on the core values of AIU as the base for its mini-projects which would guide the students throughout these three years of their graduation. Before listing the values, a caution of perspective to be mentioned as the perspective is the deciding factor of the methodology of the whole process of the project. God has created every human being so lovable and peace-loving. It is the duty of every human being to become conscious of this truth and discover the universal values present in one person. So Values cannot be instilled by outer force in the hearts of students but the faculty has to create the right atmosphere for every student to discover the innate human values within them. On the other hand, skills can be taught and learnt. The faculty, in-charge of the group of students, are not supervisors, assessors or coachers but are simply fellow travellers trained in creating the right atmosphere for learning and understanding. (There is a separate discussion on assessment on the latter part of this article.)

With this perspective of being a co-traveller who creates a better atmosphere for students to discover their values at the end of the project as the result, let’s now look into a few clarifications on the values.

 V.A.R.I.E.D model of CFP:

We work towards a world of diverse cultures living together peacefully. The students are from varied culture.  The communities are varied. The competencies are varied. So the project is also called VARIED model. The acronym V.A.R.I.E.D stands for the following.

V – Values & Skills

A – Action (Projects)

R – Reflection

I  – Indicators Assessment

E – Expression

D – Documentation

Values are those which direct our travel of life and skills are those which help in traveling successfully. The projects are designed for the students to execute and in the process they would gain a world outlook and learn the values and skills. The students would be facilitated to think and analyse about the indicators of the result achieved in the project. The strength gained out of the process would be assessed by different levels. The imaginative and creative part is where the students would express their experience in various methods for further documentation and learning. This whole process of service-learning will give them varied competencies which AIU plans to provide to the students.


UNESCO proposes the following twelve values as universal values: Peace, Respect, Love, Tolerance, Honesty, Humility, Co-operation, Happiness, Responsibility, Simplicity, Freedom and Unity.[2]

AIU has already committed itself to the following core values: Commitment to Excellence, Passion for Service, Respect & Trust, Spirit of Learning, Team work and Integrity.[3]

Peterson & Seligman comes out with a few ‘core virtues that stood across culture and time’ while they were in search of inventory of strengths in values in action.[4] They are the following

  1. Wisdom & Knowledge: (Creativity, Curiosity, Open Mindedness, Love of Learning, Perspective)

  2. Courage: (Bravery, Persistence, Integrity, Zest)

  3. Love & Humanity: ( Love, Kindness, Social Intelligence)

  4. Justice: (Citizenship, Fairness, Leadership)

  5. Temperance: (Forgiveness & Mercy, Humility, Prudence, Self-control)

  6. Spirituality/Transcendence: ( Appreciation of Beauty, Excellence, Gratitude, Hope, Humour, Spirituality)

The Living More website gives a long list of 377 values. Those who are interested can visit

Action – (Projects):

All the students would involve in one of the many community development projects designed in various fields like the following:  (Grouped under the official list of UN Millennium Development Goals)[5] There is a list of 50 projects suiting to fulfil the targets of eight UN Millennium Development Goals. In discussion, we could add/less relevant projects to suit to the needs of our local communities.

Goals and Targets

(from the UN Millennium Declaration)

AIU ProjectsGoal 1: Eradicate extreme poverty and hungerTarget 1.A: Halve, between 1990 and 2015, the proportion of people whose income is less than one dollar a day

  1. Awareness on Family Economics  and Consumerism.(Avoiding Waste Expenditure)

  2. General Consumer awareness Programme.Target 1.B: Achieve full and productive employment and decent work for all, including women and young people

  3. Vocational Skills for rural women.

  4. Vocational Skills for rural youth.

  5. Awareness on Local and Appropriate Technology.

  6. Vocational skills programme for Differently abled persons.Target 1.C: Halve, between 1990 and 2015, the proportion of people who suffer from hunger

  7. Old Age Care.

  8. Orphans Care.Goal 2: Achieve universal primary educationTarget 2.A: Ensure that, by 2015, children everywhere, boys and girls alike, will be able to complete a full course of primary schooling

  9. Supplementary Education for School going Children.

  10. Literacy Programme.Goal 3: Promote gender equality and empower womenTarget 3.A: Eliminate gender disparity in primary and secondary education, preferably by 2005, and in all levels of education no later than 2015

  11. Micro-credit for Women Groups.

  12. Awareness on Dangers of using Cosmetics.Goal 4: Reduce child mortality Target 4.A: Reduce by two-thirds, between 1990 and 2015, the under-five mortality rate

  13. Nutrition and Healthy food PracticesGoal 5: Improve maternal health Target 5.A: Reduce by three quarters, between 1990 and 2015, the maternal mortality ratio

  14. Pre natal and Post natal care for pregnant mothers.Target 5.B: Achieve, by 2015, universal access to reproductive health Target 6.A: Have halted by 2015 and begun to reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS

  15. AIDS Awareness Programme.Target 6.B: Achieve, by 2010, universal access to treatment for HIV/AIDS for all those who need itTarget 6.C: Have halted by 2015 and begun to reverse the incidence of malaria and other major diseases.

  1. Anti-Smoking Campaign.

  2. First Aid.

  3. Personal Hygiene and Environmental Hygiene.

  4. TB Awareness Programme.

  5. Cancer Awareness Programme.

  6. Awareness on Indigenous Medicine

  7. Drugs Awareness Programme. Target 7.A: Integrate the principles of sustainable development into country policies and programmes and reverse the loss of environmental resourcesTarget 7.B: Reduce biodiversity loss, achieving,  by 2010, a significant reduction in the rate of loss

  8. Nursery development.

  9. Bio-Farming & Bio-Diversity.

  10. Sustainable Development and Sustainable Livelihood Programme

  11. Tree plantation.

  12. Vermi-compost production.

  13. Integrated Pest Management.

  14. Awareness on Usage of Plastic Bags.

  15. Awareness on Climate Change.

  16. Mini household Vegetable Garden.

  17. Solid Waste Management & Recycling Programme.

  18. Disaster Risk Reduction.

  19. Bio-diesel Awareness Programme.

  20. Awareness on Renewable Energy or Non-Conventional Energy.

  21. Cattle rearing and Livestock Development.

  22. Food security and sustainable agriculture.Target 7.C: Halve, by 2015, the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation

  23. Watershed Project.

  24. Water and Sanitation Awareness ProgrammeTarget 7.D: By 2020, to have achieved a significant improvement in the lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers

  25. Slum Development ProgrammeGoal 8: Develop a global partnership for developmentTarget 8.A: Develop further an open, rule-based, predictable, non-discriminatory trading and financial systemIncludes a commitment to good governance, development and poverty reduction – both nationally and internationally

Target 8.B: Address the special needs of the least developed countries

Includes: tariff and quota free access for the least developed countries’ exports; enhanced programme of debt relief for heavily indebted poor countries (HIPC) and cancellation of official bilateral debt; and more generous ODA for countries committed to poverty reduction

Target 8.C: Address the special needs of landlocked developing countries and small island developing States (through the Programme of Action for the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States and the outcome of the twenty-second special session of the General Assembly)

Target 8.D: Deal comprehensively with the debt problems of developing countries through national and international measures in order to make debt sustainable in the long term

  1. Tourism Awareness.

  2. Preservation of Cultural Heritage.

  3. Preservation of Traditional Art Forms.

  4. Fair Trade Awareness Programme.

  5. Communal Harmony Programme.

  6. Participatory Local Governance Programme.

  7. Free Legal Aid Programme.

  8. International Co-operation and Peace Programme.

  9. Awareness on Green Economy Programme

Target 8.E: In cooperation with pharmaceutical companies, provide access to affordable essential drugs in developing countriesTarget 8.F: In cooperation with the private sector, make available the benefits of new technologies, especially information and communications

  1. Information and Communication Technology for Poor Students Programme.

  2. Information and Communication Technology for Poor Women Programme.

  3. Information and Communication Technology for Rural Youth Programme.

  4. Information and Communication Technology for Differently-abled and Orphans.

Project Implementation Process:

Here below we look at the general project implementation process. Students should be made aware of the following seven important phases of the project implementation.

  1. Identification of the Need.

  2. Project Preparation.

  3. Project Planning

  4. Project Implementation & Management

  5. Project Monitoring

  6. Project Evaluation

  7. Project Reporting

Project Implementation Skills:

The students should be briefed and guided about each skill so that they can employ the same before, during and after implementation of the project.

The skills needed to implement the project successfully are;

1.     Social Analysis Skill: ( Identification of Target Group, Identification of General Problem)

2.     Need Assessment Skill: ( Identification of Focused Issue, Identification of the specific project)

3.     Project Writing Skill: ( Formation of Title, Goal, Objectives, Activities, Strategies, Indicators, Results expected, Budgeting)

4.     Fund Raising Skill.

5.     Planning Skill: ( Bench Marking, Time Planning, Resource Planning, Implementation Planning)

6.     Leadership Skill. (Negotiation Skills, Facilitation Skills, Analytical and Reasoning Skills, Creativity and Problem Solving Skills, Brainstorming skills, Conceptualisation of Thoughts and Ideas, Demonstrating Initiative, Being Proactive, Being Resourcefulness, Sense of Responsibility, Strategic Thinking, Decision Making, Goal Setting)

7.     Team Building Skill.

8.      Effective Communication Skill; (Observation Skill, Orientation Skill, Inter-personal communication Skill, Group Communication Skill, Mass Communication Skill, Effective Public  Speaking skill, Presentation Skill,  Language Proficiency, , Listening Skills, Effective Questioning skills)

9.     Public Relations Skill.

10.  Project Implementation Skill: ( Organising a meeting, Motivation, Running the activity)

11.  Journal Writing Skill.

12.  Management Skill: ( Personnel Management, Resource Management, Financial Management, Time Management and Crisis Management)

13.  MER Skill: (Monitoring, Evaluation and Reporting Skills.

Project time line and Replicability:

The important factor to keep in mind is that the selected project should end in a time prescribed capable to give results which could be measured. This project can be replicable when the students go back to their own or to other communities.


This is the important phase of the project as it involves the thinking process. The students should be able to reflect on the experience in all three components of reflection: Descriptive, Emotional and Analytical. The students should be made aware of the difference between the subjective and objective methods of reflection.

The reflection would be on the five elements:

  1. Self: How did this experience help me understand my core value, my uniqueness, the change in my world out-look and in change in my behaviour?

  2. Group: How do I understand a group, living and working with a group? What challenges that I went through while working in a group? How did my group respond to the challenges on the project? What values and skills did I learn from my group members?

  3. Activity: What do I learn from the activity itself? Did the desired outcome be possible? How do I understand about this community? Can I do the same exercise in my community? What are the possibilities and challenges for the same?

  4. Project Community: How did the community respond to the proposed project? What was the result? How was it beneficial to the community? What values and skills did I learn from the community?

  5. Global Community:  By this project how did the world become a better place to live with peace and harmony?

The important factor to bear in mind is that the students should be able to reflect on the process and the product of the project. The students should be helped to see how their academic learning could be merged with the service learning. Only if they could reflect properly they could express it properly.

Indicators Assessment:

Psychometrics (the study of measurement of heat and water vapour properties of air) is easy. But Psychometrics (the study of abilities, attitudes and such qualifying personality traits) is difficult.    Let me quote Wikipedia here:

“Psychometrics is the field of study concerned with the theory and technique of psychologicalmeasurement, which includes the measurement of knowledge, abilities, attitudes, personality traits, and educational measurement. The field is primarily concerned with the construction and validation of measurement instruments such as questionnaires, tests, and personality assessments.”[6]

Critics of such assessment have always observed that it is not natural to measure a lively character that would change in time, space and in every single human being.

Measurement of these unobservable phenomena is difficult, and much of the research and accumulated science in this discipline has been developed in an attempt to properly define and quantify such phenomena. Critics, including practitioners in the physical sciences and social activists, have argued that such definition and quantification is impossibly difficult, and that such measurements are often misused, such as with psychometric personality tests used in employment procedures.”[7]

Nevertheless, it has to be measured for the benefit of the students who undergo this process.

Take for example. Let’s say I have four children. Don’t I observe which of them are more/less compassionate, which of them are more/less intelligent, which of them are more/less imaginative, which of them behave well/bad with the strangers and so on? In fact, in day to day life, we always assess people around. Of course, we do not give marks. But we shade them to be into this trait or that and relate according to our assumptions.

Is it not true?

We make a mental picture of the person who may be from our family, workplace or otherwise. When it comes to a professional assessment, it needs to be standardised, accurate and valid. This is a challenge.

How do we do the assessment scientific and professional? I believe that the marks, grades, ranks and assessment should not be given comparing one person with others. It should only be an indicator of what the person was and what the person is. It is not how best or worst am I with others.

I understand that every student is unique but at the same time we work for a ‘one’ world which is human and harmonious. So we need to blend the originality and the commonality in the assessment. But however we need to be conscious that it is a new field of study and AIU by practice can contribute well in future.

I have a proposal. The rubric prepared already is good. In addition to that can we have a pictorial representation of the assessment like the one here? First I reproduce (from the email I received) the present elements consisting in the rubric that AIU team has prepared to assess the development of a student in the process of project implementation. Later I propose the pictorial representation. For the pictorial presentation if the marks are for 5 rather than 3, it would be appropriate.

AIU’s present elements for rubric:

  1. 1.      Beingness/Conscience:

  2. Spirituality and Transcendence

  3. Self confidence

  4. Self-Awareness

  5. Self-Realisation

  6. Self-Awareness

  7. Integrity and Ethics

  8. Sense of Purpose

  9. 2.      Emotional Intelligence/Compassion

  10. Managing attitudes, emotions and behavior positively

  11. People Skills

  12. Acceptance and practice of diversity

  13. Resilience, Tenacity, Persistence, Perseverance

  14. 3.      Communication Skills/Critical Thinking

  15. Language Proficiency

  16. Effective Communication

  17. Presentation Skills

  18. Facilitation Skills

  19. Interpersonal Communication Skills

  20. Listening Skills

  21. Negotiation Skills

  22. Analytical and Reasoning Skills

  23. Creativity and Problem Solving Skills

  24. Effective questioning skills

  25. Brain storming skills (Individual and Group)

  26. Conceptualisation of Thoughts and Ideas.

  27. 4.      Leadership:

  28. Demonstrating Initiative/ Being Proactive/ Being Resourcefulness

  29. Sense of Responsibility

  30. Strategic Thinking

  31. Decision Making

  32. Goal Setting

  33. 5.      Meaningful  and balanced living,  working, studying and playing  together

  34. Focus on the Goals

  35. Ability to work effectively and efficiently with others.

  36. Ability to put team about self

  37. Managing Challenges and Adversities

  38. Indigenous, Local and Global Awareness

  39. Fair Play/ Olympic Values

  40. Caring/ Sharing/ Giving

  41. Recreationally enriching

The Proposed Pictorial Assessment:

Let’s take the ‘I’ in AIU as it’s in the form of a person. If the student gets say, 5 aggregate points in all the five elements of rubric, then the full person will be shaded ( Pic1), looking like a full person. Otherwise, it will be shaded according to the less marks and will look like a half (Pic2) or one quarter person (Pic3).

Pic 1

Pic 2

Pic 3


The reflection on the action has to be expressed creatively by the students in any one/more of the following methods. The sustainable learning demands original creative expression from any learner. Creativity is the phase where the learner uses one/more/or all of his/her senses which is another basic criteria for sustainable learning. We should allow students to prepare a portfolio and another creation of arts listed below. CFP should have briefing of these art forms.

  1. 1.      Linguistic/ Literary Art Forms:

  2. Story

  3. News Letter

  4. Magazine

  5. Illustrated Article

  6. 2.      Kinaesthetic/Performing Art Forms:

  7. Role Play

  8. Skit.

  9. Street Theatre.

  10. Puppetry

  11. Drama

  12. Dance

  13. Dance Drama

  14. 3.      Music Art Forms:

  15. Traditional Songs

  16. Classical Songs

  17. Music Album

  18. 4.      Plastic Art Forms:

  19. Posters

  20. Drawings

  21. Paintings

  22. Glass Art

  23. Paper Art.

  24. Textile Art.

  25. Wood Working.

  26. Collages

  27. Flip Chart

  28. Flannel Graph

  29. Flash Cards

  30. Model Making

  31. Sculpting

  32. 5.      Digital Art Forms

  33. Photography

  34. Documentary Film.

  35. Short Film

  36. 6.      Cyber Art Forms

  37. Web Page

  38. Blog

  39. Social Network Pages.

  40. You Tube


Documentation is nothing but preserving the gathered knowledge for the development of individuals, community and the human kind for the present and the future. The reflection and the expression of the projects by the students need to be documented and kept in the following.

  1. Official Website of CFP.

  2. Articles and Books in the AIU Library.

  3. Incorporation in further course study materials.


The staff have to be rightly oriented towards all aspects of CFP. The students need to be briefed about the whole process and the important elements of the process. If AIU has to become a model university, rightly standing for the human values, it needs to run CFP efficiently thus it could be replicated by other educational institutions in Malaysia and in the world.

Then AIU, a raindrop now, will be the ‘famous royal pearl’ in front of men and God.



[1] (from The Bustan of Sa’di – Sheikh Muslih-uddin Sa’di Shirazi – arranged and produced by Dr.Behrouz Homayoun Far –

[2] Living Values: An Educational Program, Living Values Activities for Young Adults by Diane Tillman.





[7] Ibid.

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