Tuesday, 1 October 2013

QUALITY IN HIGHER EDUCATION - A REVIEW

(This paper was presented in the National Seminar - "Quality Assurance and Practices in Higher Education – Issues an Challenges” Sponsored by NAAC, Bangalore held on 26th & 27th September 2013 at Kakatiya Government College, Hanamkonda, Warangal District - AP - India)
(This paper was published in the book "Quality Assurance Practices in Higher Education - Issues And Challenges" Published by "notionpress.com" With ISBN 978-93-83808-31-1. This Author is the Member in the Editorial Advisory Board of this Book)
    
         


                       

             
                  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. 

               Ancient India had world famous universities like Nalanda, Takshashila and Kanchipuram. Students from abroad used to come to India to learn from these prestigious Institutions. At present there are numerous Universities, Deemed Universities and Institutions of national Importance like IITs and NITS. But, unfortunately the quality of education and scientific research in most of these institutions is a matter of concern, as these institutions have become means for producing degrees rather than being the centers of dissemination of knowledge. According to a recent survey conducted by the ‘Time’ magazine there is no place for our reputed Universities, IITs and NITs.  Today, “Total Quality Management (TQM)” in education is the instrument of strength to withstand the challenges posed by the fast changing world scenario.     

               If one has to survive in this competitive world, ‘quality’ is important. 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.

              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.

               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? Thus, the term `quality' cannot be subjected to a single definition.

              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 Gunnar Myrdal a noted economist, "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.

              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.

         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.

Sustaining Quality:
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.

                Trade in education services under WTO depends greatly on TQM in higher education. Unlike in industry, it is difficult to define the parameters of quality in higher education. Any product has three angels – the manufacturer, the consumer and the dealer. In the education system, according to M. A. Vergees noted educationist, the Universities/Institutions are the manufacturers, the consumers are the students and the faculties are the dealers.

Globalization of Higher Education: Since globalization is the catch word of today in various sectors of the economy, it is the time that we have to emphasize the need of globalization in the sphere of higher education also. Free flow of knowledge, collaborative, competitive and qualitative participation of Indian and foreign universities/institutions will enhance India’s stature internationally.

SWOT Analysis: National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) established in 1994 is an autonomous body of UGC has taken up the gigantic task of promoting quality in higher education institutions in our country. It has helped the education institutions to make analysis of Strengths, Weakness, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT). It has taken up the challenges and initiated a nation wide movement for performance evaluation, accreditation and quality up gradation of colleges and universities in our country. We can not face the global challenges in higher education, unless, we create competitiveness, quality and excellence in teaching and research. This is possible only with introspection of our strengths and weaknesses. Above all, ethical values are important in our education system.     

Suggestions: 
· 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. 

·  Last, but not least, ‘quality must not be compromised by offering ‘Reservation Quota’ in admissions in educational institutions, in jobs, in promotions. Merit must be given ‘top priority’ in all the sectors of the economy.

          To conclude, ‘Quality Management’ in education is very essential to with stand the challenges posed by the world today. The 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.




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