QUALITY PARAMETERS IN HIGHER EDUCATION: A REVIEW
(This article was presented in the State Level Seminar - "Conventional Courses in UG & PG Colleges. Measures to Retain & Promote the Courses using Quality Parameters" Sponsored by NAAC, Bangalore on 19th & 20th Nov. 2010 at Kakatiya Government College, Hanamkonda, Warangal District - AP - India and Published in the Seminar Volume)
- Dr. S. Vijay Kumar
Today there is a general feeling that the moral, social and political standards in the country, and the great values of life are fast deteriorating. This situation has manifested into widespread violence, terrorism, corruption, gender injustice, communal clashes and various unpatriotic acts. In short, India is currently facing a crisis-of-character. If our country is to be saved from this chaotic condition, the reform process has to start immediately. When deterioration is seen all around, one is bewildered as to which direction the reform process has to start with. The social reformers feel that the reform has to start with the educational sector, because it is directly engaged with the moulding of the character and mental development of the younger generation.
The quality of higher education has deteriorated in recent times. The Educational Ministry and the University Grants Commission have been constantly addressing this problem by conducting periodical seminars, workshops and conferences involving policy makers, administrators, vice chancellors, principals and the teachers, to obtain their views and enhance the quality of higher education. But there is a greater confusion regarding an acceptable definition for the word `quality'. It has different meanings to different people.
The teachers, who cater for the needs of the rural students, believe that they have rendered quality education if they have succeeded in making them obtain degrees with decent grades, and if they have entered into the job market. It is because they have laboured to make these students shed their initial phobia about higher education, instilled in them the confidence to face the examinations, provided them with simplified course materials, assisted them in improving their English since most of them come from vernacular medium schools and motivated them regarding the need to equip themselves with other skills, to face the challenges of life in this competitive world.
The teachers, who are burdened with enormous number of students, have heavy workload. Their satisfaction is unlimited if they have succeeded in maintaining discipline and commanding their attention to their lectures and involving them in various academic exercises with interest, in spite of their continuous workload.
Teachers, in the elitist institutions, however, think they have rendered quality education if their students succeed in getting university ranks and high profile jobs, since they utilize the best infrastructure provided to turn them into confident and dynamic citizens with leadership qualities. Thus the term `quality' cannot be subjected to a single definition.
Now, let us analyze how the policy makers define the term ‘quality'. To them quality maintenance and enhancement in colleges is possible only with autonomy, semester pattern, deemed university status, student exchange programmes, accreditation, credit-based system and job-oriented courses. Nobody is denying the fact that these are sophisticated tools for rendering quality education. But how many of our colleges are equipped to introduce these westernized tools of higher education? How many of the economically and socially backward students can afford this type of elitist education? How is it possible to introduce these tools if the classroom strength is beyond 100? These are ground realities faced by the teachers and when they highlight these problems in the right forums, it cannot be simply brushed aside as conservative ideas. Teachers are not against bench marking and quality enhancement. But such efforts should focus attention on the existing problems too.
Moreover, the teachers are apprehensive about the policy maker's readiness to make the institutes of higher learning as servants of industries. It will be very dangerous if the choice of the subjects, the framing of syllabi, the selection of the work projects and the direction of research, are to be in accordance to the industries command. It is a highly commercial attitude. Moreover, in such a system of education, languages and social sciences will be sidelined. Are we going to dispense with these subjects in the name of quality enhancement and allow absolute commercialization of higher education?
According to Gurnnar Myrdal, "education has an independent as well as instrumental value, i.e., the purpose of education must be to rationalize attitudes as well as to impart knowledge and skills. Education for national development should aim at training the younger generation the life skills, self reliance, personality development, community service, social integration and political understanding". The Latin word education means `bringing out the potentialities of the individual for self development'.
Option for diversity of Courses:
As Swami Vivekananda has rightly pointed out “Education is the manifestation of perfection already in man”. For that purpose, the objective of education should be stress on knowledge, skills and attitude development. Unless, Courses do not have these objectives, education will never be holistic. We need to give number of options to our students. In today’s world we do not find packaged specializations. Most of the students after their course completion they have to pursue other courses for their livelihood, this will become an extra burden to students and parents. Each student has to make his or her own package of subjects that he/she wants in terms of their life ambition. That means, courses have to become more inter-disciplinary according to the requirements of student package of subjects. We need a problem solving approach rather than information oriented approach.
A peaceful non-violent social reformation can be achieved only through educational reforms. The educational system must produce young men and women of character with the ability to serve for self and national development. The policy makers should realize that mirroring of the West blindly will create chaos and confusion in the educational sector. It should be kept in mind that colleges are not manufacturing centers of robots for the industry. We are dealing with delicate and young human minds. The ongoing discussions on the quality of higher education reveal that the teachers and the policy makers have divergent views, and efforts should be taken to bridge the gap.
Quality Assurance in Higher Education:
In an environment of global competitiveness it is important that Indian products of the higher education institutions are as competent as graduates of any other country. Not only in their scholastic attainments, but also in terms of the value system and richness of their personality. Unless the quality and standard of Indian higher education institutions is enhanced zealously and sustained at a high level through innovation, creativity and regular monitoring, it seems to be difficult for the Indian academics/professionals to compete in the World scene. This calls for suitable assessment and accreditation mechanisms to be available in the country to ensure the quality and standard of the academic/training programmes at higher educational institutions. The assessment has to be continuous and the process has to be transparent to gain the acceptance of the society at large. In our country NAAC, Bangalore is doing this job.
Quality has both absolute and relative connotations. The concept of absoluteness in quality boost up the morale of the higher education system at the delivery end i.e. institutional, and at the receiving end i.e. students. Quality dimensions seem to have two implications, i.e., functionality of the output and meeting the basic standards. Hence, the quality of a higher education system may be seen from the point of view of norms and standards, which may evolve depending on the need of the hour. In the 21st century, it is crucial to identify the relative norms for different components of a higher education system. The alternative dynamics for teacher preparation and the sustaining quality in teacher input, like: Curriculum design and development; Curricular practices vis-à-vis emerging principles of pedagogy; Evaluation of learners performance and progress vis-àvis curriculum evaluation and quality management practices become crucial. The quality of these components may also differ from institution to institution. Therefore, sharing of the experiences among institutions on quality issues may generate ideas for evolving norms and strategies for their quality assurance of management processes, curricular inputs and practices and the evaluation system as well. Various developments have been witnessed relating to quality assurance mainly through the intervention of information and communications technologies (ICT) in education, like networking of the open learning system with traditional Universities, interdisciplinary interactions at intra-institutional and inter-institutional levels, networking of institutions globally, data based management of higher education, changing the orientation of institutions by incorporating self financing in their financial management, assessment and accreditation of higher education institutions and creation of different statutory and regulatory bodies at the national level.
· Curriculum Planning and Management should be studied in the perspective of knowledge management.
· Integrated approach by involving experts from different fields with major focus on sharing of experiences in a holistic framework and having dialogues at different levels such as: at core committee level and at subcommittee level.
· Multidisciplinary curriculum must be developed with a view to cater to the needs and fulfillment of expectations of learners, teachers, parents, employers and society in general.
· Decentralization must be encouraged with a broad frame work of University system.
· Every University must have its own curriculum. There should not be any mechanism for central curriculum framework at higher education level.
· Context, specificity and inquiry oriented experience must be reflected in the curriculum. Learners' participation in the generation of knowledge must be the focus of constructivist curriculum. Problem solving abilities must be developed through experimentation life-like situations.
· Indigenous knowledge system must be kept in mind while adopting scientific and technological developments as core components of University curriculum context specificity and global developments must be visualized with a holistic perspective.
· Curriculum construction should transact in an authentic and real environment.
· Curriculum transaction should involve social negotiation and mediation. Encourage group activities and make optimum use of peer as resources of higher learning.
· Knowledge and skills must be developed with a view to provide relevance and meaningfulness.
· Learner’s involvement must be encouraged to link previous experience with present learning. The learner should have full opportunity to scrutinize the learning experiences.
· The principles of self regulation, self mediation and self awareness on the part of learners must be reflected in curriculum transaction.
· Teachers should plan a mentor's of guiding learners to learn instead of directing them or instructing them all the time.
· Learners must have ample scope to formulate their own queries and have multiple interpretations of knowledge through self search and experiential learning.
· During curriculum transaction learners should be assessed formatively on a continuous basis to create the basis for acquiring new experiences.
To conclude, ‘Quality Management’ in education is very essential to with stand the challenges posed by the world today. This can be achieved by introspecting our Strengths, Weakness, Opportunities, and Threats. NAAC is helping our higher education institutions in maintaining the quality management in our country. NAAC’s accreditation to our institutions is strengthening the best practices and financial support.