Quality Assurance in Education and Training

Bit of a Background

As students, many of us have seen poor or indifferent quality of teaching in our schools and colleges. To cope with this void our parents sent us to extra coaching classes (mornings and evenings) so that we would learn something and pass important exams, and get a degree!!

This scenario has not changed over the past 30+ years in India! Increasingly parents have to cough up stiff school and college fees for their children, in addition more money for extra tuitions, and all they can do is hope for the best. For the hapless young students, the pressure/expectations from parents, and competition from peers only aggravates the situation –from morning to late evening they are studying endlessly, and appearing for lectures/exam preps/tests………….all this is sometimes quite meaningless!

The minimum aim of educating the masses in India is this – anyone should be able to (a) read a newspaper, (b) write and sign name, (c) read and write a letter/an application/fill a form, etc. (d) use a bank or a post office!

But this is not sufficient for a young India anymore! The core question is – what does getting a degree mean to them? Well, getting a degree actually implies that a student has completed the requirements of the said curriculum and is skilled enough to get a job in the labour market. Unfortunately in most cases a degree may not be a genuine reflection of a person’s skills and competencies, because of poor quality of education imparted to them.

In a recent World Bank report shared by my friend Sita (Live Mint from Wall Street Journal 7th July 2014) on how ‘Poor Education is Holding Back India’ should definitely be an eye opener for all those who care and bleed silently for the state of the education system in India. And I quote, “……… poor quality of education, reflected in low learning levels, in India and other South Asian countries traps many young people in poverty and prevents faster economic growth ………..”.

The Actual Problem

If we try and dig deeper, the reasons for poor quality of education and training in India are plenty! But the main issue is that the dividend (or the return on investment) on education expense may be returned much later in life; so the cycle for monitoring what is ‘good’ and what is ‘not good’ education spans more than 10-15 years, from school to a college degree, to a higher professional qualifications such as an MBA, an MS or a PhD! Paying for education is not like buying any consumer goods such as a soap or a packet of crisps – we don’t get instant gratification or can we see a feedback for the monies spent! This is frustrating for all stakeholders in the system.

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Some Possible Solutions
To provide assurance to all stakeholders (mainly parents, students, course owners, principles, top management, etc.) of quality of education it is best to address by monitoring every aspect of the learning steps.

In my earlier blog on ‘Analytical Framework for Monitoring Teaching Learning Process’ I had mentioned a few pointers for ensuring that teachers teach and learners learn! (https://atabhagwat.wordpress.com/2014/06/30/analytical-framework-for-monitoring-teaching-learning-process/) Of course none of these solutions are water tight – some solutions work for some, some other solutions work for others! Learning is a very individual journey; all that sincere teachers and educators can do is to provide the right environment and motivation so that a learner can take that journey, and enable a learner to progress, and acquire better skills and competencies in their chosen line or profession.

Quality Assurance
Below is what I would like suggest for quality assurance in education and training:
1. Teachers should provide extensive and detailed templates to map objectives of the course work to the learning outcomes. The mapping has to encompass subject level outcomes along with broad programme level outcomes.
2. Students should have adequate hands-on work, project work; challenge them with problem-based learning, and enquiry-based learning; also give them time for self-study and home assignments.
3. For college students, allow a gap year so that they can take industry experience and ‘learn’ something in the real world rather than in the enclosed campuses, class rooms, libraries, computer rooms and labs!

If these are strictly followed, I can guarantee that the quality of education will improve. It will provide an absolute transparency to how teaching-learning is being imparted. Ideally a blended learning model with some edtech components and a dashboard would be suitable for all stakeholders.

The return on investment on education will pay off sooner than later.

Of course all this means a lot of hard work for teachers and students (and also for the management of educational institutions). Getting quality education is NOT an easy task! Good quality education is cost and effort intensive, there is no second option.

Last words……..in the passing……………
In India, there are genuine educational institutions that impart high quality education, sometimes at very high costs……then there are many not-so-genuine (or even fraudulent) institutions that charge high and do nothing with sincerity and transparency! So high cost does not necessarily equate to a better education, although most people are fooled into thinking so, unfortunately!
The only way to pull out of quagmire of poor quality of education is that stakeholders involved should at least see that the quality assurance pointers stated above are somewhat available for them, and learners are encouraged to take their difficult journey even with limited wherewithal!

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