Acure problems of competency-building approach in Russian physical education system



Dr.Hab., Professor V.P. Lukiyanenko
North-Caucasian Federal University, Stavropol

Keywords: modernization of education, educational process, competency-building approach, vocational competency, universal educational actions


The article explores the acute problems coming up in the process of the competency-building approach being implemented in the modern Russian educational environment that are, in opinion of the author, subject to little if any attention of and discussion in the national mass media. It should be noted in this context that it is the institutional and educational conditions for the competency-focused education that are commonly promoted as a magic cure believed to raise one day our national education system to a new quality level. However, there are quite enough objective facts and logical, theoretical and practical grounds for serious doubts about real benefits of this approach.

Findings of the problem analysis presented in the article demonstrate that the competency-building approach gives no real benefits compared to the Russian traditional educational systems that have been built up for many decades. Furthermore, the study makes an emphasis on the fact that the competences, however formed they may seem, exist rather in a sort of imaginary virtual education environment than in the students’ consciousness and souls in fact. The author is looking forward to the study report making a good contribution to the growing efforts to cure our educational theory and practice of the aggressive declarations and illusions on the present state and future promises of this system; and to oppose the pompous educational dilettantism and absurdly excessive technocratic innovations in the educational process design.


The competency-building approach has been triumphant in swallowing up every domain in the Russian national education universe. Multiple theses and research studies have reported successes and unusual efficiency of the new method. We believe, however, that it is premature and reckless to view this approach as a magic cure believed to raise the national education system to a new quality level.

Objective of the study was to make a critical analysis of the problems that arise in the competency-building approach being introduced into the modern physical education practices.

Study results and discussion

It may be pertinent to mention first of all that virtually every thesis with concern to the introduction of the competency-building approach in the Russian educational environment justify them by the need for Russia to access the European educational universe and rethink, if we want to be accepted, our theoretical and practical concepts and provisions regulating the professional quality standards of special education backgrounds. And it is the institutional and educational conditions for the competency-focused education that are widely promoted as a magic cure, whilst the set of professional competences and competencies is portrayed as a core result of education process. The only snag is that there are quite a few hard facts and both theoretical and practical reasons to seriously doubt the illusive hopes and benefits of this approach.

In the context of the competency-building process benefits in the practical modern conditions, we would note the low motivation for studies as one of the most important facts. There are multiple judgements on and reasons for the fact that have been reported many times and well known to every interested reader. Therefore, it might make sense to give as a case in point only the summarizing judgement of former Education Minister A.A. Fursenko who confessed with deep regret in one of the TV interviews that no more than 20% of the university students are really interested to learn and obtain high-quality education today; and this is the reason why the present education quality leaves much to be desired.

Knowing that, one cannot but comes to serious doubts about success of the process that is initially deficient for the simple reason that it lacks the most important components, namely the sound professional knowledge and motivations-and-values-driven determinations that are imperative for success of the process as confessed by many analysts including the new approach designers; unless these components are in place, no competences whatsoever may be formed in reality. Small wonder that competences in such situation, however formed they may seem, exist rather in a sort of imaginary virtual education environment than in the students’ consciousness and souls in fact.

There is an ample evidence of exorbitant zeal of some ardent promoters of the competency-building approach that has resulted in lots of practical guides to help implement its key provisions, requirements and standards; however, the ongoing attempts to implement these ideas in real practice (in form of the relevant practical education provisions, guidelines etc.) give multiple reasons to doubt not only their illusive benefits but even their ability to stand test by basic logic and common sense.

However hard this opinion may seem, we would provide logical and reasonable substantiations for it by taking, for instance, as a case in point, analysis of the practical education provisions for the prime education curriculum of the Physical Education academic discipline as the most simple one (in opinions of many analysts). We would mention, to substantiate our standpoint, only one of the multiple samples of the so-called Calendar Thematic Plans which we had a pleasure to analyse (it was the 2nd year plan drafted in full compliance with the valid standards and practical recommendations) [3].

Making an attempt to identify the reasons for the “outstanding scope” of the system, we find the following. When it comes to describing some particular section – for example, “Lessons design in educational system” – the teacher is obliged to indicate every relevant educational establishment (at least 100 in this case) and report at least ten qualitative aspects of the process.

Moreover, in every lesson planning process, the teacher is required to outline the ways he/ she is going to take to form in the trainees the qualities and abilities to: cooperate, select, prioritize, fulfil, demonstrate, use, model, denominate, find, update, communicate, explain, describe, define, dress, move, prepare, open up, narrate, distribute, distinguish, regulate, compose, characterize etc. Just imagine what and how the teachers have to invent to meet these ridiculous requirements and recommendations – and you will get some idea of the reason for their indignant feedbacks and emotions. One can only share these emotions and indignations when gets acquainted with the formal performance standards that are used to rate a student’s success in mastering the Physical Education curriculum (i.e. primary skills in exercises like rolls, jumps, throws etc.) – that include fantasies like “…Russian civil identity formation degree…”; “world outlook based on the modern scientific developments and social practices”; “… the ability to identify missions and functions of different social institutions, interpret a variety of social, political and economic events and assess their impacts” etc. [2] (see any sample curricula of any academic discipline).

However, it is only a small part of the teacher’s problems in this theatre of absurd, only an overture to them. In addition to the above ridiculous practical teaching provisions, the teacher is required to produce a Work Program in the Discipline that is much more important and no less voluminous manuscript than the above-mentioned Calendar Thematic Plan, plus a Technological Chart for every lesson of physical education. Every such Chart performed as required by the relevant practical recommendations makes up at least a ten-page document. It is easy to calculate how many pages of such scribble a teacher must produce knowing that most of the teachers give on average 30 lessons per week that amount to some 2 thousand lessons per year!

The most worrying thing in the situation is that all this much ado about the “live education process” claim enormous time and energy from educators that are rapidly and completely exhausted by it. No wonder that more and more teachers (particularly the most responsible and determined ones) complain having no time for their core mission – that is the high-quality practical teaching process and real (rather than fake) preparations for it.

It is getting more obvious for more people that the real education process on the one hand and the planning, practical educational provisioning and reporting on the other – exist in some parallel worlds having next to no contact points.

We have only briefly mentioned a few cases of nonsense without venturing to grasp and analyze the ideas and content of the standards which force the teachers to invent the ways to shape up civic consciousness and tolerance in trainees when mastering something like roll-over or forward roll.

It should be sadly confessed that the educational bureaucrats have succeeded in forcing the teachers to report the “degrees of formation” of civic consciousness, tolerance, Russian social identity, world outlook in the context of modern scientific developments and social practices and other verbiage – for every specific lesson if not a specific exercise. How the teachers can avoid doing that? If not, they may be blamed for violation of the State Standard. But we do believe that no reporting successes are likely to bring some real benefits for our national education in particular and society on the whole.

Furthermore, it is not unusual to see that the bureaucrats that once forced the teachers to schedule and report all this verbiage come back with audits to check whether or not they may provide an objective evidence of how well formed is one or another personal quality or competence in some specific lesson. And it always turns out that teachers – who are naturally unable to drag out this burden – are blamed and humiliated as scapegoats and chief wrongdoers “incompetent” in their profession. Therefore, we can only support N. Tselisheva who called this practice “techno-educational sadism” [4].


The analysis and findings of the study demonstrate that the modern competency-building approach – being analyzed even from the viewpoint of elementary logics and common sense –not only fails to bring whatever tangible benefits as compared to the good old educational traditions that have been cultivated in our country for many decades, but is highly doubtful as far as its promises and contributions to the Russian educational universe are concerned.  


  1. Primernaya osnovnaya obrazovatelnaya programma obrazovatelnogo uchrezhdeniya. Nachalnaya shkola (Sample basic curriculum of educational institution. Primary School) / [comp. by E.S. Savinov]. – 4th ed., rev. – Moscow: Prosveshchenie, 2012. – 223 p.
  2. Programma kursa «Fizicheskaya kultura» 10-11-e klassy (Physical Education course program for 10-11th grades) / Comp. by T.V. Andryukhina, N.V. Tret'yakova. Sootvetstvuet FGOS. – Moscow: Russkoe slovo, 2014. – 63 p. (P. 7-9).
  3. Fizicheskaya kultura. 2 klass: sistema urokov po uchebniku A.P. Matveeva (Physical Culture. Grade 2: course based on A.P. Matveev's textbook) / Comp. by A.Yu. Patrikeev. – Volgograd: Uchitel', 2012.
  4. Tselishcheva N. Oda zdravomu smyislu, ili sotsialnaya opasnost slovobludiya (Ode to common sense or social danger of verbiage) // Narodnoe obrazovanie, 2004. - № 8. – P. 189-202.
  5. Chichikin V.T. Teoreticheskie osnovyi formirovaniya professionalnoy gotovnosti spetsialista v sisteme fizkulturno-pedagogicheskogo obrazovaniya: avtoref. dis. … dokt. ped. nauk (Theoretical basics of formation of professional readiness of specialist in physical culture pedagogical education system: Abstract of doctoral thesis (Hab.) / V.T. Chichikin. – Moscow, 1995. – 33 p.

Corresponding author: