Skill base versus knowledge education


There is much debate as to what is the best way to teach our children. Some believe that they should receive a knowledge based education whilst others feel that a skills based curriculum is better. Both have their advantages, but what is the difference and how can we know which one is best.

Skills based learning centres around developing and applying specific skills that can then be used to obtain the required knowledge. The classroom environment will encourage independence, as well as combining active-learning and collaboration to help the children retain the knowledge. This process allows the pupils to ‘access, process and then express’ the knowledge they have learnt rather than simply writing it down. Tasks can include working together to assess one another’s knowledge and to help each other to progress and learn. This form of learning is effective for helping children improve their self-confidence, which in turn will help them to do well. It also means that they will be more receptive to other, possibly harder, subjects as they will feel they have the skills and ability to tackle the problems in front of them.


It not only helps children to learn what they need to succeed in education, but helps to develop life skills that can help the child to grow and progress as a person as well. The main skills this way of learning will help are interaction and team-work, as the children work together to solve problems and help each other to achieve the aims.

From a teachers point of view, it changes the way lesson  planning is done. Whereas before the focus would have been on how they could teach the class about a certain topic, skills based learning means that the focus is on how that topic can help the children to develop and learn certain skills.

Knowledge based learning on the other hand aims to build upon the knowledge that the pupil already has. There are clear learning objectives set out which link to the activity undertaken, helping the child to see how their existing knowledge will help them to complete the task.

Clear guidelines will be set at the beginning of the task which help the learner to see a clear path to the finish. Along the way they can apply the knowledge they already have, whilst also learning new things. This linear structure helps the pupil to see how they are progressing and can help to highlight where, if any, the gaps are in their knowledge.

Using this method, regular feedback is given to help the children know where they have gone wrong and where they are correct. This means that their learning is assessed along the way ensuring that they are making progress. Learning a lot of facts at once can be confusing for children, especially when they have a range of subjects to learn, so it is important to use the knowledge based technique as it means you can easily pin-point where more focus is needed. By drawing on the knowledge a child already has it boosts their confidence as it proves to them that they already have some, if not all, the information they need to complete the required task. And even if they don’t, they know where they need to put more focus.

For teachers this can mean having more one to one time with pupils to talk through how they are finding the task/subject and giving any additional help they may need. This can seem time consuming but it will ensure that all pupils are engaged and learning during the lessons, and that they will all succeed.


Both methods of learning are effective, and the best education will combine the two to ensure that all pupils are learning at the same pace. They complement each other as the knowledge based learning ensures that they have all the  information stored in their  brain that they can then take into  the task, impart on to others and use the skills they  have  learnt to help each other to get to the end result.

Techniques such as games and role plays are a good way to combine the two methods,  and are proven to have positive  results. They are more engaging then simple lessons, and require more mental effort and motivation to complete.  Working in teams helps children to teach each other, whilst  gaining knowledge themselves, and games and tasks have a set path so if they make a mistake they will know and will have to work together to find the best way forward. An education which combines the two is the most effective and best way for our children to learn.

By Librent Benggano