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Quality Assurance in Education

Successful Approaches for Improving Quality
in schools, colleges and universities
Kamran Moosa

Introduction
It is not just the quantity but the quality of education which leads a country to rapid growth and
industrialization. In other words, it is not about just the “output” but about the “Outcome” of schools,
colleges and universities. The number of graduating students is the output, while the quality of graduates
is the outcome. Quality Assurance (QA) is an important and organized discipline for the academia, as
well as planners and government to ensure appropriate outcome of educational institutions. This is
carried out at two levels. External QA (also called accreditation) is carried out by regulatory/professional
bodies at the national/provincial level to ensure the minimum performance level of educational programs
and institutions. It must be independent and unbiased. The other level, Internal QA, is an internal and
integral part of the institution’s administration and management systems. It implements a set of policies,
programs and procedures set-up by an institution to provide confidence and transparency in their
outcomes related to their graduates, teachers, exams, and infra-structure. QA in education does not focus
just on the academic performance, but also on the social and national outcomes. In many countries, the
Quality of Education is not being addressed properly. As a result quality deteriorates at the country level.
This paper identifies and focuses on the fundamental concepts of Quality Assurance and Management in
Education. It is divided into four parts: (1) Objectives of Education and Quality (2) Learning Levels and
Academic Standards (3) Quality Issues in the Basic Education Processes (4) Management of Institutions,
and finally (5) Conclusions and Recommendations

1. Objectives of Education and Quality
The QA framework of any institution is derived from its objectives. Therefore, the right objectives of
education must be set, both at the national as well as institution levels, before designing the QA
framework. The QA framework must try to achieve excellence in these objectives. These objectives may
broadly be classified into the following three categories:

1. Social Excellence. Social norms are the foundation of a country’s culture and provides longevity to
its social values. Many religions and/or political systems attempt to provide such norms. Different
groups/countries have chosen different models for their community affairs and ethics, e.g. Islamic
ethics, Christian Ethics, Hindu Ethics, socialism, etc. The believers of these religions derive their
social norms from their religions.
Many countries measure the social outcome of their institutions at the country levels. Some of the
social performance of the US schools are measured as follows (Ref: Strategic Education Plan of the
USA for 2002-2007 - USA Dept. of Education).:

and stories of ethics.) 3. e.100 2. etc. national integrity in classes. etc. etc. elimination of local heroes and projection of foreign heroes. chemistry etc. designing needs-based courses and academic standards focusing on “Application”. curriculum. Job Retention Rates.g. process control of the teaching and learning activities to ensure the quality of faculty. Its quality is usually measured by many indicators. the national educational policy of Japan focuses on the development of nationalist and ethical Japanese irrespective of the level. results of academic learning. Similarly. national dress.1. 3. Academic Excellence. preparedness and readiness for any national disaster through effective practical training in the courses and an annual day to prove this. defense training in schools and colleges. i. the morning assembly in schools. skills and capabilities that are required by the employers of that country.000. type. University Degrees without ensuring such measures will create an unstable educational infrastructure in the country. which are in total contradiction to local social values and national integrity of the other country. teaching environment. For this to be a strong objective. sexual assault. This includes concepts and stories like drinking bear/liquor as a heroic act. .g. including education. every mean must be used. the national anthem in all public functions. The Japanese design every curriculum to ensure this and arrange various activities. All such introductions generate inferiority complex in people of that country and weaken their nationalism. and the law. many extra-curricular activities are also designed to achieve this goal. heroes. Although these may fulfil academic objective in some cases. there are numerous reported cases where these books provide cultures. (Serious violent crime includes rape. like Literature. and placing a system of customer satisfaction. QA function for the objective of Academic Excellence includes activities like: employers needs analysis. media. These values are also normally imbedded in many other subjects. It can easily be lost with unplanned and borrowed literature of other countries. One of the liberal curriculum policies on the rise in some countries is to adopt books from some western countries in order to raise the level of quality of education in schools/colleges. e. This focuses around academic outcome. Accessibility. Most countries in the West do not encourage books printed in other countries to be used in their schools. The number of violent crimes experienced at school by students ages 12 through 18 years in the USA in 2000 = 884. systems which measure the quality and performance of education (both at an institution and the country levels). Career Progression.g. practical orientations in schools. e. Percentage of 14-18 years old who believe cheating occurs by half or most students in 2002 = 40% 2. For example. Drug Use in school by students age 12-17 years: Alcohol = 16%. National Excellence. robbery. Employability. The subject of Social Studies taught in schools is specifically designed to achieve this goad. medicine. and fulfilment of National Economic and Defence Priorities. Unity and integrity among the countrymen cannot be taken for granted. Other measures also include Industry Feedbacks. The number of serious violent crimes experienced at school by students ages 12 through 18 years in 2000 = 185. It must be designed. developed and groomed through the educational processes. Affordability. This is creation of the right capabilities of the subject matter/discipline. and the right historical perspectives in books. Control over curriculum. research in colleges/universities that leads to the development of industrial and national requirements. students. is an allimportant factor to perpetuate the society in the right direction for the right objectives. national language. or location of education. including but not limited to Student Grades. Marijuana = 7% 4.e. engineering. and aggravated assault. Excellence in Professional education implies relevant and particular set of knowledge. Cigarettes = 13%.

board. They are in an increasing order of difficulty: 1. which should be used for setting standards in every educational institution. eating. both within and outside the institution? QA is a set of management activities. Its questions starts with: give classification of. Knowledge: recognizing. and government organization dealing with education to clearly define and lay the foundation of establishing the relevant objectives. He further studied the powerful nations who dominate as rulers and described that they differentiate between Knowledge. The things they adopt immediately and for long terms are their language. It is therefore important for every institution. For example: “how much money you will pay to the shopkeeper if you buy 6 pencils. control and improvement. The military power. Furthermore. give reason for … etc. Learning Levels. Taxonomy of Educational Objectives. Bloom’s Taxonomy (Bloom B. The problem is not with the identification of the objectives and a philosophical discussion on them. etc. schools and universities need to be accountable to public for these objectives.Ibn-e-Khaldoon (one of the greatest Sociologists and Anthropologists ever produced by the world) in his Muqaddimah talks in detail about the habits of those nations which have been ruled by bigger powers. The types of questions asked for this level in exams normally starts with: define. and madaris producing products that fulfil these objectives? Is there any mechanism to measure and control their quality.. colleges. Every country usually define such objectives in their policy documents or constitutions. and social norms (marriages. Application: The student is able to apply/use the subject in a particular and practical situations. Are the schools. These processes are not mature enough or are absent all together to achieve the desired objectives. He explains that specialized and high quality industrial knowledge and abundance in skills always drive the industry in the country. etc. demonstrate. Academic Standards and Performance Measures Teaching by itself is not and must never end in itself. 4. For example “define what is a cell” 2. . accreditation body. Before any Quality Assurance framework is established. summarize. dress. state. This wide industrial development subsequently uplifts the military power of that country. where each pencil costs Rs 3?”. solve. The types of questions for this level normally starts with: explain. 1956) provides six levels of learning. Analysis: The learner is able to break down an information/idea into its principal parts so that its organizational structure may be understood. Theoretically. knowledge and industrial skills. but with the processes which try to achieve them. Skills and Language (which the slave nations do not). Practical habits are formed. memorizing and recalling facts/information. In a quest to come out of any type of slavery. 3. it is important to establish the required LEARNING OUTCOME – the quality of the output of the institution . why. most people usually know and agree (to some degree) with these objectives. but very few have a system on ground for measuring these objectives through clear metrices.). which tries to address these questions.. they (the nations being ruled) start adopting the habits of the rulers. as he explains. The powerful nations who rule are too selective and concerned for pursuit of mastery over language. as well as to develop mechanisms for their measurement. modify. It must ensure appropriate learning. 2. He concludes that even after hundreds of years of such imitation. It involves problem solving to produce some results. describe. no matter who has it. They all. universities. generalize. nations remain under occupation. Comprehension: This involves understanding and thinking the intend and objectivity of meaning . get into a state of inferiority complex due to being ruled by foreign power.. Institutions and government organizations involved in education must all be accountable to the public for achieving such objectives. develop. as none of these were the true reasons to become a developed and powerful nation. For example “explain the difference between cell and muscle”. Question asked for this level normally start with: how. etc. is always in search of weaker nations as bigger fish eat the smaller ones.

etc. as well as designing examination which evaluate students truly for each level separately and appropriately (familiarity. Examples of questions: What do you think …? Provide arguments on …?. application. distinguish. In higher business education. or to deduce new propositions from a set of basic propositions. Leadership is commonly taught as a subject up to Knowledge Level. resolving controversies or differences of opinion. compare. adapt or create a subject to fit into different situations and conditions. 6. These standards can become an important component of any QA program. It involves making value decisions about issues. but many children are found unable to use these tables in every day life (Application Level problem). etc. etc: for example “what are the main elements of organizational culture?”. Synthesis: Being able to modify. whereas most students do not develop leadership skills (Application Level problem) and do not understand what leadership is from a practical point of view (Comprehension Level problem). Similarly. five time prayers are taught in Islamiat (Knowledge Level). based on the study of the economic model of Singapore. . but most students in schools and colleges cannot pray correctly.) For example. The learner forms a judgments based on facts. or decisions. comprehension. judgments. and many do not pray at all (Application Level problem). Defining the subjects’ learning levels in such a manner will produce Academic Standards. and developing opinions. Evaluation: This is the highest level of learning. justify …?.compare and contrast…. They can also be used for teachers’ validation and development purposes. what is your proposals for the economic model of Pakistan?. 5. the math tables are taught and memorized (Knowledge Level) in early classes. Questions of this level are: how would you design the marketing plan of …. it is important to establish the desired learning level for each subject and topic. example and specific criteria. what are your solutions to deal with poverty…. For example “Should teachers be allowed to hit students who misbehave? Evaluation Level Synthesis Level Application Level Analysis Level Comprehension Level Knowledge Level Figure 1: Learning Levels In order to develop academic standards and teachers validation program for each subject and for each class. outline.

Synthesis. it can partially be overcome at the institutional levels with effective Quality Assurance programs. They mostly check only to the level of Knowledge and/or comprehension. Evaluation).3 0. most institutions focus mainly on the Knowledge and/or Comprehension levels at the most. In most of the cases. 67 70 35 60 25 40 20 23 30 15 14 15 20 0 30 30 50 10 40 40 10 8. Presently results of the boards/cities are not monitored and used effectively for improvement of quality in schools/colleges.38 B C D E 5 F Board Result of High School – City A 0 1. the requirement for teachers’ up-gradation is not in the domain of further knowledge.3 A B C D F Board Result of High School . Such analysis leads to problem solving at a city/national level. Presently. Some metrics used for measuring performance are as follows: 1 Domains of Quality Assurance Academic Excellence Metrics (Measurable parameters) Examination results. Similarly. focusing on practical skills and problem solving. Teachers must be developed and Certified in the subject matter as well as in the teaching skills to be able to bring their students to the Application and Analysis levels. For example. parents and community is that of Application and Analysis levels. college entrance rates. while overall national educational focus must change to the practical world.01 A 1. most examination systems are also not designed appropriately.3 0. . but with practical understanding and analytical capabilities. Unfortunately.Schools. colleges. the capabilities of most teachers are also up to the Knowledge and Comprehension levels in the subjects they teach. and madaris must develop Academic Standards for every subject and discipline from the point of view of achieving certain level of learning as defined in the Bloom’s Taxonomy. the result of Higher Secondary Schools of one Board in 2003 in Pakistan (both in Pre-medical and Pre-engineering) compared to another city is as shown in the following diagram. The minimum need of the industry. Measuring Academic Performance at a Country Level: Academic performance should also be measured at the country level.City B Figure 2: Comparative result of two Secondary Boards of two different cities Setting-up Metrices: Establishing performance measures is one of the key neglected areas although it is a core activity of QA process. universities. However. and are not up to the required higher levels (Application. Analysis. employers. and are not involved with the subject in the practical world. This is because they teach without generating practical debate in classrooms. job placements. This is a serious system deficiency. Performance indicators are not just school or college results.

and percentage of time spend by students in social work Time spend per week in social work (boy scout. he/she will to build capabilities in many other fields. Quality Teacher: A highly qualified teacher does not mean high Quality teacher. (3) Good understanding of Student Psychology. this does not mean he/she can teach the subject matter effectively.e. rather than restricting themselves to the academia. etc. These are: (1) Academic Competence (theory plus practical) in the relevant subject which he/she is teaching.). There are basically four dimensions of an effective (quality) teacher. and synthesis capabilities in the particular subject that one is or would be teaching. It is a usual malpractice by many universities. in addition to the subject matter. For a teacher to be good. Excellence is required to be built in all the four dimensions. etc. colleges and schools to allow teachers to teach the subject in which he/she is not qualified. unemployment. (2) Teaching Skills for the relevant subject (Pedagogy).g. i. and employers satisfaction levels Compliance with ethics. Time spent in Disaster recovery. skills. A teacher who is good in one subject is not necessary good in others. MS or PhD.2 Social Excellence 3 National Excellence earning levels. analysis. which is by no means sufficient. . As a result. Academic Competence should be based on the Bloom’s Taxonomy. and performance evaluation criteria needs to be broadened to include all the four dimensions. Similarly they (teachers) have to be restricted to the subjects in which they are competent. A teacher who himself/herself is not competent in the application/analytical levels would never be able to build that level in the students. teamwork. duration of employment. community work. training. Usually teachers are only measured from their academic credentials. 3. Whereas. the same teacher is teaching one subject effectively and is doing a poor quality of work in the other(s). teachers have to enter in the practical / professional life.). donations and charities. the knowledge. student smoking rate. Quality in Basic Educational Processes Quality issues can be classified in the following six basic educational processes: 1. For that level to be good. comprehension. cheating rate). Their selection. etc. Highly qualified refers to high level of degrees (e. emergency and defence preparedness drills.g. crime rate of students (e. Figure 3 shows a chart where the performance of two teachers is plotted on a chart. and (4) Commitment and Motivational Skills.

As a result. i. (2) Implemented Curricula. i. Quality Curricula: Curricula is generally divided into three levels: (1) Intended Curricula. provincial.Academic Competence Commitment & Motivational Skills Teaching Skills Relevant field (Pedagogy) Student P h l Figure 3: Four Capabilities of a Teacher 2. student achieve best results if exams are made by the same class Intended Curricula Implemented Curricula Attained Curricula Internal Exams / Grading External Exams / Grading Figure 4: Three levels of Curricula – Intended.e. board. Implemented and Attained . and (3) Attained Curricula. the board/external exams are based on Intended Curricula.e. professional or even customer level.e. which is what teachers/school plan to do. Usually internal exams by schools are conducted on implemented or attained curricula. what is defined at the country. i. Whereas. which is actually taught.

(2) Reliability & Validity. Therefore. 3. Although the results are different. there will not be much difference in results between internal/external results. The Lesson Plans. the academic results are not reliable.) the results are usually the worst. The Quality goal is always to achieve the attained curricula equal to the Intended Curricula. or even inferiority complex against foreign books. and even cost are all important matters for selecting the right text book. suitable examples and content for easy comprehension. Similarly just low cost or local does not mean poor quality. logic. usually reflect the academic standards and are made/revised at the start of every semester. such as cost of book. Choosing the right text book has always been difficult task and requires a lot of efforts and intellectual capabilities. It is not true in most cases. Selection of textbooks is many times influenced by many superficial biases. language. confidentiality. etc. If they are made by another teacher from the same school. Quality of Exams and Assessment: There are four main aspects of exams which affect their quality: (1) Planning – ensure compatibility with the Lesson Plans. style. Subsequently. independence. appropriate logical flow. In this way. ensure that it is conducted effectively. When are exams are conducted by the third party (external boards. the results are usually not as good as the earlier one. Wrong selection of textbooks is one of the major problems found in our educational institutions at every level. High cost or a foreign book does not necessary mean good quality. it does not necessary mean that # of Students 0 10 20 30 40 Sec C Sec B Sec A 50 60 Fig 5: Examples of Results of three sections of the same class 70 80 90 100 . print quality and format of books. ensure that exams measure what they are supposed to measure and cover what they are supposed to cover keeping in view the bloom’s taxonomy. language. format. and (4) Analysis of Results with appropriate statistical techniques and understanding. etc. Quality of text book and reference books is dependent on the course objectives and the required academic standards. Quality Assurance of a institution must ensure that the achieved curricula is always equal to Intended. It is usually taken for granted that teachers know how to make exams. country of publication. (3) Management.teacher. Quality problems are seen in almost all the four aspects. effective controls are required to ensure that academic standards have been achieved. The Language. The following figure (Fig 5) shows the results of three sections of the same class taught by three different teachers. difficult use of terminology.

and the skills of reading. Quality of Research: Research is mainly carried out at the Masters and PhD levels. Its Quality is dependent on: (1) The Research Need . and Values. or may have given hints and clues to exam questions without pushing actively for in-depth learning. Language of books.who should support for the resources required in the research. Students need to be developed in six areas: Intellectual Capability. research standard. it looks that the result of Section A is worst. Quality Assurance program of any institutions must measure the quality of communication in every class. even though . listening and speaking of both the teachers and students. (6) Inputs and Databases -which are required for the research and accessibility to information. learning outcomes vary considerably even within and among the students of every class. content. Similarly. 4. compatibility of logical complexity between the book-teacher-student. Interest/motivation. Every Quality Assurance program must endeavor to establish the measures the quality in research.to be compatible with the industry or national needs.e. how can he understand the logic. and (8) Validation of the Results . Quality of Students and Parents: Learning is a two way process. (4) The Criteria for the research – i. The teacher of Section A may have covered more and taught the complete curriculum with comprehension/application level. (3) Agreement between the Researcher and Sponsor . Effort. 5. (2) The Sponsor of the Research . and self study.to ensure the credibility of the research.the learning is achieved best in Section C. very few teachers and text books are measured from this angle and subsequently improved through some organized process. Unless the exam is designed to measure comprehension. the only thing checked is usually the intellectual capability of students. (7) Research Output . compatibility of vocabulary between the book-teacherstudent. but it may be possible that there had been best learning in this section. motivation. It is not just the language but also the logical complexity of the text as well as teacher which makes the communication effective or ineffective. Due to variation in each of these aspect among students. Quality of Communication: Communication is process which takes into account the Medium of Instruction. Unfortunately. Due to such break down students get frustrated and not just lose their learning but also their interest. (5) The Research Process and Methodology – to ensure appropriate depth. Intellectual Capacity.or the form in which the research output is acceptable or useful to the sponsor. Learning Attitude. Very few universities formally measure the quality of research carried out in their universities. All other things are neglected. it will not be able to detect such a difference. Fig 6: Example of a Communication Problem 6. writing. With this level of translations. and language.on the proprietary/intellectual rights. At the entrance exams. The example of a page of class 7 English text book shows the translation made by a student who stood 10th position in a class. Teacher of class C may have been lenient.

Administration Quality includes: . These are as follows: 1. Intellectual Capability Intellectual Capacity Values Learning Curve/Attitude Effort Interest Fig 7: Six dimensions of a quality student 4. concerted efforts. Their involvement and right attitude in the learning process is equally important. It is an attribute and way of working of teachers and administrators who make long terms goals for improving quality of their institutions/classes. Quality of Management In addition to setting the right educational processes.students belong to the same strata of academic entrance grades. Quality of Administration: Administration function is important at two levels. The institutional administration is managed by the principals or registrars whereas the classroom administration is done by teachers.e. Institutional Leadership: This includes the abilities of teachers and academicians to conceive the vision of quality. measure their process and are committed to their quality goals. This aspect is not just for the principals and/or vice chancellors or deans. 2. Institutional and Classroom. long term quality goals. right policies. recorded or taken into account by majority. Similarly. The following diagram shows the basic measures required to check the student as a whole. This sort of leadership can not be developed or sustained by teachers and administrators without teamwork. Measures other than the intellectual capability are not well understood. There are four aspects of management which affect the overall quality of institutions. i. it is equally important to build Management capabilities and practices within universities. colleges and schools. but also required in teachers to provide the leadership in their classrooms. the approach of parents who are supporting students also matters. appropriate training. and strong commitment. Student counseling must be a regular process to be performed by qualified counselors. Every teacher and head of institution must be made accountable to the quality of his/her work.

and reward/award programs. Many countries have set-up independent and professional accreditation agencies. desks. For example.but depend on way of teaching and teaching skills of the teacher also). Maintenance of the institution building. The following three types of Quality Models are globally popular: 1. labs. Cleanliness of classrooms. and Initiatives for Improving Quality. etc. ABET (in USA) for engineering universities. library. Quality Assurance (QA) Program: This revolves around three basic functions: Quality Planning. in the semi-government domain in the rapidly developing countries. building. Accreditation Models. peer reviews and internal quality auditing. human resource management of teachers and institutional staff. EQUIS for MBA business schools in Europe. . producing academic standards. collecting and analyzing the root-cause of 2 Process Outcome 1 EDUCATIONAL PROCESSES Teacher Student Curricula Comm. etc. desks. setting processes to rectify root-causes. Such agencies are mostly in the private sector in the developed countries. collecting such data and analyzing it. and Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) of UK. They provide criteria of accreditation based on customized models of QA. Exams Implemen ting Solutions 1 Student Outcomes Problem Solving 2 Research Students’ Outcome 3 Performance Measure Root Cause Analysis Data Collection & Reports Processes Outcomes 3 Customer Outcome Customers Satisfaction Academic Standards & Quality Objectives Customer Outcomes Figure 8: Quality Assurance Model in Education quality problems. documentation of systems.• • • • • • • size of class room (20 is usually considered good. playground. bathrooms. Measuring Quality and Quality Control. and in the government sector in the third world countries. changing/upgrading and revising procedures to improve quality. Laws are made to ensure compliance to the accreditation criteria set by these agencies. Student/parent councelling Discipline and code of ethics of both the teachers as well as students Conformance to teaching schedule Documentation of Standard Operating Procedures and Institutions’ Policies 3. etc. Main activities in educational institutions include: establishing indicators for performance measurement.

All good institutions in the world are following one or more of the above models. Such events are also very healthy in building a Total Quality Culture in schools. Their own values matter the most. These are programs for motivating performers and those who implement Total Quality Management (TQM). Ethical Policy. Research. Code of Ethics for teachers must also be defined. The objective is not just to give awards. etc. agreed by all stakeholders. Management Standards. There are six key educational processes where quality gets affected: Teacher. is necessary to be defined. are all elements of institutional cultures.2. It is not just the quantity (output) but the quality (outcome) of education which leads a country to rapid growth and industrialization. A few years ago World Council for Total Quality and Excellence in Education has been running annual convention of Students Quality Control Circles in various countries. There are four aspects of Management Processes which affect quality: Leadership. Rajev Gandhi National Quality Award in India. Students should also be given courses/lectures on Code of Ethics in their respective disciplines. and the Deming in Japan. National Excellence and Academic Excellence. Conclusion In order to address QA effectively in the education sector. Unfortunately. discussed. Exams. Educational Excellence Award Models. A number of our universities are using this Standard in their universities. Baldrige in the USA. For examples. Administration. 4. Organizational Behavior addresses the culture of organization. and Institutional Culture. vulgarity. control and improve performances. which provide solid foundation programs to measure. 3. Co-curricular activities. cheating in exams. 2. Institutional Culture: A joyful. Curricula. The most popular standard is ISO 9000 which sets the basic requirement for a quality management system. and ethical culture is an important ingredient of any education institution. but to promote the process of QA and TQM. The objectives of education must be clearly understood and imbedded into the policies. Communication and Students/Parents. 5. The top management and teachers mainly drive a culture. both for teachers and students. They must develop a vision and then develop action plans to form and sustain a culture with values which must be adhered to by every one. 3. Role models must be developed through teachers. Every institution should look seriously into Quality Assurance and should prepare an action program to deal with it effectively. teachers politics. and practiced. students politics. The study of Organizational Behavior (especially formal and informal groups) is necessary for principals and senior management of universities. only a handful of institutions have adopted these programs in Pakistan effectively. These are quality management systems based on third party certification schemes. healthy. They provide a complete framework for implementing Total Quality Management in educational institutions. the following areas need special attention and improvements: 1. . the European Quality Award in Europe. These can be divided into three domains: Social Excellence. mental stress. Students of every grade take part in it and demonstrate the use of Quality techniques to solve problems of their schools. students health problems. Quality Assurance Program.