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Quality Assurance in Education

Successful Approaches for Improving Quality in schools, colleges and universities

Kamran Moosa


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).:

1. The number of violent crimes experienced at school by students ages 12 through 18 years in the USA in 2000 = 884,100

2. The number of serious violent crimes experienced at school by students ages 12 through 18 years in 2000 = 185,000. (Serious violent crime includes rape, sexual assault, robbery, and aggravated assault.)

3. Drug Use in school by students age 12-17 years: Alcohol = 16%, Cigarettes = 13%, Marijuana = 7%

4. Percentage of 14-18 years old who believe cheating occurs by half or most students in 2002 =


2. National Excellence. Unity and integrity among the countrymen cannot be taken for granted. It must be designed, developed and groomed through the educational processes. It can easily be lost with unplanned and borrowed literature of other countries. For this to be a strong objective, every mean must be used, including education, media, and the law. The subject of Social Studies taught in schools is specifically designed to achieve this goad. These values are also normally imbedded in many other subjects, like Literature. Similarly, many extra-curricular activities are also designed to achieve this goal, e.g. the morning assembly in schools, the national anthem in all public functions, national integrity in classes, defense training in schools and colleges, etc. For example, the national educational policy of Japan focuses on the development of nationalist and ethical Japanese irrespective of the level, type, or location of education. The Japanese design every curriculum to ensure this and arrange various activities, e.g. preparedness and readiness for any national disaster through effective practical training in the courses and an annual day to prove this. Control over curriculum, national dress, national language, and the right historical perspectives in books, is an all- important factor to perpetuate the society in the right direction for the right objectives. Most countries in the West do not encourage books printed in other countries to be used in their schools. 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. Although these may fulfil academic objective in some cases, there are numerous reported cases where these books provide cultures, heroes, and stories of ethics, which are in total contradiction to local social values and national integrity of the other country. This includes concepts and stories like drinking bear/liquor as

a heroic act, elimination of local heroes and projection of foreign heroes. All such introductions generate inferiority complex in people of that country and weaken their nationalism.

3. Academic Excellence. This focuses around academic outcome, i.e. results of academic learning. This is creation of the right capabilities of the subject matter/discipline, e.g. engineering, medicine, chemistry etc. Its quality is usually measured by many indicators, including but not limited to Student Grades. Other measures also include Industry Feedbacks, Employability, Career Progression, Job Retention Rates, Accessibility, Affordability, and fulfilment of National Economic and Defence Priorities, etc. University Degrees without ensuring such measures will create an unstable educational infrastructure in the country. Excellence in Professional education implies relevant and particular set

of knowledge, skills and capabilities that are required by the employers of that country.

QA function for the objective of Academic Excellence includes activities like: employers needs analysis, designing needs-based courses and academic standards focusing on “Application”, practical orientations in schools, research in colleges/universities that leads to the development of industrial and national requirements, systems which measure the quality and performance of education (both at an institution and the country levels), process control of the teaching and learning activities to ensure the quality of faculty, curriculum, students, teaching environment, and placing a system of customer satisfaction, etc.

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. They all, as he explains, get into a state of inferiority complex due to being ruled by foreign power. In a quest to come out of any type of slavery, they (the nations being ruled) start adopting the habits of the rulers. The things they adopt immediately and for long terms are their language, dress, and social norms (marriages, eating, etc.). He concludes that even after hundreds of years of such imitation, nations remain under occupation, as none of these were the true reasons to become a developed and powerful nation. He further studied the powerful nations who dominate as rulers and described that they differentiate between Knowledge, Skills and Language (which the slave nations do not). The powerful nations who rule are too selective and concerned for pursuit of mastery over language, knowledge and industrial skills. He explains that specialized and high quality industrial knowledge and abundance in skills always drive the industry in the country. This wide industrial development subsequently uplifts the military power of that country. The military power, no matter who has it, is always in search of weaker nations as bigger fish eat the smaller ones.

Theoretically, most people usually know and agree (to some degree) with these objectives. The problem is not with the identification of the objectives and a philosophical discussion on them, but with the processes which try to achieve them. These processes are not mature enough or are absent all together to achieve the desired objectives. Every country usually define such objectives in their policy documents or constitutions, but very few have a system on ground for measuring these objectives through clear metrices. Furthermore, schools and universities need to be accountable to public for these objectives. Are the schools, colleges, universities, and madaris producing products that fulfil these objectives? Is there any mechanism to measure and control their quality, both within and outside the institution? QA is a set of management activities, which tries to address these questions.

It is therefore important for every institution, board, accreditation body, and government organization dealing with education to clearly define and lay the foundation of establishing the relevant objectives, as well as to develop mechanisms for their measurement, control and improvement. Institutions and government organizations involved in education must all be accountable to the public for achieving such objectives.

2. Learning Levels, Academic Standards and Performance Measures

Teaching by itself is not and must never end in itself. It must ensure appropriate learning. Before any Quality Assurance framework is established, it is important to establish the required LEARNING OUTCOME – the quality of the output of the institution . Bloom’s Taxonomy (Bloom B., Taxonomy of Educational Objectives, 1956) provides six levels of learning, which should be used for setting standards in every educational institution. They are in an increasing order of difficulty:

The types of questions

asked for this level in exams normally starts with: define, describe, state, etc. For example “define what is a cell”

2. Comprehension: This involves understanding and thinking the intend and objectivity of meaning . The types of questions for this level normally starts with: explain, summarize, generalize, give reason for … etc. For example “explain the difference between cell and muscle”.

3. Application: The student is able to apply/use the subject in a particular and practical situations. It involves problem solving to produce some results. Practical habits are formed. Question asked for this level normally start with: how, why, solve, modify, develop, demonstrate, etc. For example: “how much money you will pay to the shopkeeper if you buy 6 pencils, where each pencil costs Rs 3?”.

4. Analysis: The learner is able to break down an information/idea into its principal parts so that its

Its questions starts with: give classification of ,

1. Knowledge:

recognizing, memorizing and recalling facts/information.

organizational structure may be understood.

compare and contrast…, outline, distinguish, compare, etc: for example “what are the main elements of organizational culture?”.

5. Synthesis: Being able to modify, adapt or create a subject to fit into different situations and conditions, or to deduce new propositions from a set of basic propositions. Questions of this level are: how would you design the marketing plan of …, what are your solutions to deal with poverty…, based on the study of the economic model of Singapore, what is your proposals for the economic model of Pakistan?.

6. Evaluation: This is the highest level of learning. The learner forms a judgments based on facts, example and specific criteria. It involves making value decisions about issues, resolving controversies or differences of opinion, and developing opinions, judgments, or decisions. Examples of questions: What do you think …? Provide arguments on …?, justify …?, etc. For example “Should teachers be allowed to hit students who misbehave?



Knowledge Level Figure 1: Learning Levels
Figure 1: Learning Levels



Level Figure 1: Learning Levels Application Level Analysis Level Synthesis Level Evaluation Level In order to



Figure 1: Learning Levels Application Level Analysis Level Synthesis Level Evaluation Level In order to develop



Levels Application Level Analysis Level Synthesis Level Evaluation Level In order to develop academic standards and



In order to develop academic standards and teachers validation program for each subject and for each class, it is important to establish the desired learning level for each subject and topic. Defining the subjects’ learning levels in such a manner will produce Academic Standards. These standards can become an important component of any QA program. They can also be used for teachers’ validation and development purposes; as well as designing examination which evaluate students truly for each level separately and appropriately (familiarity, comprehension, application, etc.)

For example, the math tables are taught and memorized (Knowledge Level) in early classes, but many children are found unable to use these tables in every day life (Application Level problem). Similarly, five time prayers are taught in Islamiat (Knowledge Level), but most students in schools and colleges cannot pray correctly, and many do not pray at all (Application Level problem). In higher business education, Leadership is commonly taught as a subject up to Knowledge Level, 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).

Schools, colleges, universities, 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. Presently, most institutions focus mainly on the Knowledge and/or Comprehension levels at the most. The minimum need of the industry, employers, parents and community is that of Application

and Analysis levels, focusing on practical skills and problem solving. Unfortunately, the capabilities of most teachers are also up to the Knowledge and Comprehension levels in the subjects they teach, and are not up to the required higher levels (Application, Analysis, Synthesis, Evaluation). This is because they teach without generating practical debate in classrooms, and are not involved with the subject in the practical world. In most of the cases, the requirement for teachers’ up-gradation is not in the domain of further knowledge, but with practical understanding and analytical capabilities. 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. Similarly, most examination systems are also not designed appropriately. They mostly check only to the level of Knowledge and/or comprehension. This is

a serious system deficiency. However, it can partially be overcome at the institutional levels with effective Quality Assurance programs, while overall national educational focus must change to the practical world.

Measuring Academic Performance at a Country Level: Academic performance should also be measured at

the country level. For example, 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. Such

analysis leads to problem solving at a city/national level. Presently results of the boards/cities are not monitored and used effectively for improvement of quality in schools/colleges.

67 40 70 40 35 60 30 30 50 25 40 20 15 23 14
Board Result of High School – City A
Board Result of High School - 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. Performance indicators are not just school or college results. Some metrics used for
measuring performance are as follows:
Domains of Quality Assurance
Metrics (Measurable parameters)
1 Academic Excellence
Examination results, college entrance rates, job placements,

earning levels, duration of employment, unemployment, and employers satisfaction levels


Social Excellence

Compliance with ethics, crime rate of students (e.g. student smoking rate, cheating rate), and percentage of time spend by students in social work


National Excellence

Time spend per week in social work (boy scout, community work, etc.), Time spent in Disaster recovery, emergency and defence preparedness drills, donations and charities, teamwork, etc.

3. Quality in Basic Educational Processes

Quality issues can be classified in the following six basic educational processes:

1. Quality Teacher:

Highly qualified

refers to high level of degrees (e.g. MS or PhD, etc.). Whereas, this does not mean he/she can teach the

subject matter effectively. For a teacher to be good, he/she will to build capabilities in many other fields, in addition to the subject matter.

A highly qualified teacher does not mean high Quality teacher.

There are basically four dimensions of an effective (quality) teacher. These are: (1) Academic Competence (theory plus practical) in the relevant subject which he/she is teaching, (2) Teaching Skills for the relevant subject (Pedagogy), (3) Good understanding of Student Psychology, and (4) Commitment and Motivational Skills. Usually teachers are only measured from their academic credentials, which is by no means sufficient. Excellence is required to be built in all the four dimensions. Figure 3 shows a chart where the performance of two teachers is plotted on a chart. Their selection, training, and performance evaluation criteria needs to be broadened to include all the four dimensions. Academic Competence should be based on the Bloom’s Taxonomy, i.e. the knowledge, comprehension, skills, analysis, and synthesis capabilities in the particular subject that one is or would be teaching. A teacher who himself/herself is not competent in the application/analytical levels would never be able to build that level in the students. For that level to be good, teachers have to enter in the practical / professional life, rather than restricting themselves to the academia. Similarly they (teachers) have to be restricted to the subjects in which they are competent. It is a usual malpractice by many universities, colleges and schools to allow teachers to teach the subject in which he/she is not qualified. A teacher who is good in one subject is not necessary good in others. As a result, the same teacher is teaching one subject effectively and is doing a poor quality of work in the other(s).

Academic Competence Commitment Teaching Skills & Motivational Relevant field Skills (Pedagogy) Student Figure
Teaching Skills
& Motivational
Relevant field
Figure 3: Four Capabilities of a Teacher

2. Quality Curricula: Curricula is generally divided into three levels: (1) Intended Curricula, i.e. what is defined at the country, provincial, board, professional or even customer level, (2) Implemented Curricula, i.e. which is what teachers/school plan to do, and (3) Attained Curricula, i.e. which is actually taught. Usually internal exams by schools are conducted on implemented or attained curricula. Whereas, the board/external exams are based on Intended Curricula. As a result, 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
Intended Curricula
Implemented Curricula
Internal Exams / Grading
External Exams / Grading
Figure 4: Three levels of Curricula – Intended, Implemented and Attained

teacher. If they are made by another teacher from the same school, the results are usually not as good as the earlier one. When are exams are conducted by the third party (external boards, etc.) the results are usually the worst. The Quality goal is always to achieve the attained curricula equal to the Intended Curricula. Quality Assurance of a institution must ensure that the achieved curricula is always equal to Intended. In this way, there will not be much difference in results between internal/external results. The Lesson Plans, usually reflect the academic standards and are made/revised at the start of every semester. Subsequently, effective controls are required to ensure that academic standards have been achieved.

Choosing the right text book has always been difficult task and requires a lot of efforts and intellectual capabilities. The Language, style, logic, appropriate logical flow, suitable examples and content for easy comprehension, format, and even cost are all important matters for selecting the right text book. Quality of text book and reference books is dependent on the course objectives and the required academic standards. 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. Similarly just low cost or local does not mean poor quality. Selection of textbooks is many times influenced by many superficial biases, such as cost of book, print quality and format of books, language, country of publication, difficult use of terminology, or even inferiority complex against foreign books.

3. Quality of Exams and Assessment: There are four main aspects of exams which affect their quality:

(1) Planning – ensure compatibility with the Lesson Plans, independence, language, confidentiality, etc. (2) Reliability & Validity, 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, (3) Management, ensure that it is conducted effectively, and (4) Analysis of Results with appropriate statistical techniques and understanding. It is usually taken for granted that teachers know how to make exams. It is not true in most cases. Quality problems are seen in almost all the four aspects. Therefore, the academic results are not reliable.

The following figure (Fig 5) shows the results of three sections of the same class taught by three different teachers. Although the results are different, it does not necessary mean that

# of Sec C Sec B Students Sec A 0 10 20 30 40 50
# of
Sec C
Sec B
Sec A

Fig 5: Examples of Results of three sections of the same class

the learning is achieved best in Section C. Teacher of class C may have been lenient, or may have given hints and clues to exam questions without pushing actively for in-depth learning. Similarly, it looks that the result of Section A is worst, but it may be possible that there had been best learning in this section. The teacher of Section A may have covered more and taught the complete curriculum with comprehension/application level. Unless the exam is designed to measure comprehension, it will not be able to detect such a difference.

4. Quality of Research:

Its Quality is

dependent on: (1) The Research Need - to be compatible with the industry or national needs, (2) The Sponsor of the Research - who should support for the resources required in the research, (3) Agreement between the Researcher and Sponsor - on the proprietary/intellectual rights, (4) The Criteria for the research – i.e. research standard, (5) The Research Process and Methodology – to ensure appropriate depth, (6) Inputs and Databases -which are required for the research and accessibility to information, (7) Research Output - or the form in which the research output is acceptable or useful to the sponsor, and (8) Validation of the Results - to ensure the credibility of the research. Very few universities formally measure the quality of research carried out in their universities. Every Quality Assurance program must endeavor to establish the measures the quality in research.

Research is mainly carried out at the Masters and PhD levels.

5. Quality of Communication:

Communication is process which takes into account the Medium of Instruction, Language of books, compatibility of vocabulary between the book-teacher- student, compatibility of logical complexity between the book-teacher-student, and the skills of reading, writing, listening and speaking of both the teachers and students. 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. Unfortunately, very few teachers and text books are measured from this angle and subsequently improved through some organized process. The example of a page of class 7 English text book shows the translation made by a student who stood 10 th position in a class. With this level of translations, how can he understand the logic, content, and language. Due to such break down students get frustrated and not just lose their learning but also their interest, motivation, and self study. Quality Assurance program of any institutions must measure the quality of communication in every class.

must measure the quality of communication in every class. Fig 6: Example of a Communication Problem

Fig 6: Example of a Communication Problem

in every class. Fig 6: Example of a Communication Problem 6. Quality of Students and Parents

6. Quality of Students and Parents:

Learning is a two way process. Students need to be developed in

six areas: Intellectual Capability, Intellectual Capacity, Learning Attitude, Interest/motivation, Effort, and Values. At the entrance exams, the only thing checked is usually the intellectual capability of students. All other things are neglected. Due to variation in each of these aspect among students, learning outcomes vary considerably even within and among the students of every class, even though

students belong to the same strata of academic entrance grades. The following diagram shows the basic measures required to check the student as a whole. Measures other than the intellectual capability are not well understood, recorded or taken into account by majority. Student counseling must be a regular process to be performed by qualified counselors. Similarly, the approach of parents who are supporting students also matters. Their involvement and right attitude in the learning process is equally important.



c c t t u u a a l l C C a a p p








Fig 7: Six dimensions of a quality student

4. Quality of Management

In addition to setting the right educational processes, it is equally important to build Management capabilities and practices within universities, colleges and schools. There are four aspects of management which affect the overall quality of institutions. These are as follows:

1. Institutional Leadership:

This includes the abilities of teachers and academicians to conceive the

vision of quality. This aspect is not just for the principals and/or vice chancellors or deans, but also required in teachers to provide the leadership in their classrooms. It is an attribute and way of working

of teachers and administrators who make long terms goals for improving quality of their institutions/classes, measure their process and are committed to their quality goals. Every teacher and head of institution must be made accountable to the quality of his/her work. This sort of leadership can not be developed or sustained by teachers and administrators without teamwork, long term quality goals, concerted efforts, appropriate training, right policies, and strong commitment.

2. Quality of Administration:

Administration function is important at two levels; i.e. Institutional and

The institutional administration is managed by the principals or registrars whereas the


classroom administration is done by teachers. Administration Quality includes:

size of class room (20 is usually considered good- but depend on way of teaching and teaching skills of the teacher also),

Cleanliness of classrooms, building, bathrooms, playground, desks, etc.

Maintenance of the institution building, desks, library, labs, etc.

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. Quality Assurance (QA) Program:

Quality Planning,

Measuring Quality and Quality Control, and Initiatives for Improving Quality. Main activities in educational institutions include: establishing indicators for performance measurement, collecting such data and analyzing it, collecting and analyzing the root-cause of

This revolves around three basic functions:

Academic Standards & 2 Quality Process Objectives Outcome 1 3 EDUCATIONAL PROCESSES Students’ Teacher
Standards &
& Reports
Processes Outcomes
Student Outcomes

Figure 8:

Quality Assurance Model in Education

quality problems, setting processes to rectify root-causes, changing/upgrading and revising procedures to improve quality, peer reviews and internal quality auditing, producing academic standards, documentation of systems, human resource management of teachers and institutional staff, and reward/award programs. The following three types of Quality Models are globally popular:

1. Accreditation Models.

Many countries have set-up independent and professional accreditation

agencies. Laws are made to ensure compliance to the accreditation criteria set by these agencies.

Such agencies are mostly in the private sector in the developed countries, in the semi-government domain in the rapidly developing countries, and in the government sector in the third world countries. They provide criteria of accreditation based on customized models of QA. For example, ABET (in USA) for engineering universities, and Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) of UK, EQUIS for MBA business schools in Europe, etc.

2. Educational Excellence Award Models. These are programs for motivating performers and those who implement Total Quality Management (TQM). They provide a complete framework for implementing Total Quality Management in educational institutions. The objective is not just to give awards, but to promote the process of QA and TQM. For examples. Baldrige in the USA, the European Quality Award in Europe, Rajev Gandhi National Quality Award in India, and the Deming in Japan.

3. Management Standards. These are quality management systems based on third party certification schemes. The most popular standard is ISO 9000 which sets the basic requirement for a quality management system. A number of our universities are using this Standard in their universities. All good institutions in the world are following one or more of the above models, which provide solid foundation programs to measure, control and improve performances. Unfortunately, only a handful of institutions have adopted these programs in Pakistan effectively.

Institutional Culture: A joyful, healthy, and ethical culture is an important ingredient of any education institution. Co-curricular activities, students health problems, teachers politics, students politics, vulgarity, cheating in exams, mental stress, etc. are all elements of institutional cultures. Organizational Behavior addresses the culture of organization. The study of Organizational Behavior (especially formal and informal groups) is necessary for principals and senior management of universities. The top management and teachers mainly drive a culture. Their own values matter the most. 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. Role models must be developed through teachers. Ethical Policy, both for teachers and students, is necessary to be defined, discussed, agreed by all stakeholders, and practiced. Students should also be given courses/lectures on Code of Ethics in their respective disciplines. Code of Ethics for teachers must also be defined. 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. Students of every grade take part in it and demonstrate the use of Quality techniques to solve problems of their schools. Such events are also very healthy in building a Total Quality Culture in schools.

healthy in building a Total Quality Culture in schools. Conclusion In order to address QA effectively
healthy in building a Total Quality Culture in schools. Conclusion In order to address QA effectively


In order to address QA effectively in the education sector, the following areas need special attention and improvements:

1. It is not just the quantity (output) but the quality (outcome) of education which leads a country to rapid growth and industrialization.

2. The objectives of education must be clearly understood and imbedded into the policies. These can be divided into three domains: Social Excellence, National Excellence and Academic Excellence.

3. There are six key educational processes where quality gets affected: Teacher, Curricula, Exams, Research, Communication and Students/Parents.

4. There are four aspects of Management Processes which affect quality: Leadership, Administration, Quality Assurance Program, and Institutional Culture.