‘Quality education’ means a set of systematic activities


Dr A Senthil Kumaran
Co-Founder, The Learners Confluence, Bengaluru

A string of focused tasks to design, implement, review and improve curricula continually as well as to enhance resource management, community engagement and others is what all we need to bring ‘quality education’ in schools in India.

How do you define quality in terms of school education? What are the indicators of quality in educational dynamics?

School education is like any other service sector where practical experience matters. ‘Quality’ in terms of school education basically means not only confirming to specifications of the regulatory/statutory/affiliating body, but meeting and exceeding the present and future stakeholder needs and expectations leading to satisfaction and life-long learning. Quality education means a set of systematic activities carried out by the school to effectively and efficiently achieve the institution’s objectives so as to provide education and training with a level of quality that satisfies stakeholders, at appropriate time, in a cost-effective way.

Key indicators of ‘quality education’ would cover the process adopted by the school to design, implement, review and continually improve the curriculum, leadership, strategy planning, staff, resource management, stakeholder and community engagement. The process that has been planned with clear objectives will help the school achieve its ‘vision’ and ‘mission’.

Do you think quality is contextual conditioned by various resources, inputs and management perspectives? If so, is it right to apply the same instruments of quality assessment to differing clientele?

Yes, I agree that quality is contextual, but the management perspective is key to right practices and measurements. We can use the similar criteria for different types of schools for measuring the educational practices effectively, rather than merely looking only at the results (for example, in general term, academic performance in examinations, admissions into institutions of higher learning). Today most of the assessment models in the country are only result oriented and perception driven.

The key for any good assessment of school should be done keeping these aspects in the mind: Vision, Mission & Values; Location of the School; Location-related Advantages and Disadvantages; Management Philosophy; and Stakeholder’s Profile. In this, process effectiveness would be the key differentiator between schools.

Generally, quality in education is considered and measured in terms of the results produced by the institution. What do you think are the real parameters of defining and measuring quality of education of an institution?

To answer this question, I would like to quote Swami Vivekananda—“I have been always learning great lessons from that one principle, and it appears to me that all the secret of success is there: to pay as much attention to the means as to the end”. The measurements should be on students’ success, staff, community, financial, and non-financial results with a combination of perception and actual performance of the school. The percentages for these can vary from criteria to criteria.

There are some tangible and some intangible dimensions of growth and performance of a school. How do you think the instruments of assessment could be set to cover both these areas of growth?

As shared earlier every practice of the school should be measured, otherwise it would mean that it is more of an unplanned and anecdotal incident. For quality, every practice should be planned for the result keeping in mind the school objectives as Albert Einstein once said, “Our theories determine what we measure.”

The measurements should be on students’ success, staff, community, financial, and non-financial results with a combination of perception and actual performance of the school. The percentages for perception and performance can vary from one criterion to another. For example, staff results can be measured on their actual performance and perception should be 50 percent each; whereas in community, it should be performance (25 percent) and perception (75 percent).

What are the most accepted standards and tools in quality assessment at the international level and how much impact they have made in the Indian context?

I believe that any assessment model should also be adopted as school governance model and then institutions do not prepare themselves for any assessment just before one month of the actual assessment. Most of the international frameworks for institutional assessments across the world keep their own needs in mind, for example, KHDA (Dubai’s school inspection board) has framework for assuring quality education for all the expats living in Dubai, getting educated through international schools.

European Foundation for Quality Management, Quality Management System, Malcom Baldridge National Quality Award Framework, Singapore Excellence Model, Office for Standards in Education (UK), to name a few, are popular institutional assessment frameworks. Most of these are also built around Enablers (Educational Practices) and Results (Institutional Performance).

In India, there are many models which have been adapted by schools like Tata’s in Jamshedpur. The schools have adapted the framework of Malcolm Baldrige under the Tata Education Excellence Programme (TEEP), Quality Council of India, National Accreditation Board for Education and Training (NABET). Many new schools have also adapted these frameworks for their internal governance purposes.

It is said that the concept of quality assessment in education in India is just in its embryonic stage. What is your suggestion to create better awareness about pursuit of quality in the Indian school system?

Unfortunately, the term ‘Quality Assessment’ in India is still connected to accreditation and certifications. What I believe is that it should become a habit where these assessments should become a reaffirmation for institutional practices to accelerate the journey to school excellence. The accreditation certification should be only by-products of the school practices.

All stakeholders have a role in promoting quality awareness in schools. Like Swachh Bharat Abhiyan we really need a campaign which would help to enhance the need and how the quality can be enhanced to our education system. Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan and Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyhan have been able to enhance the enabling factors; and the measurements were gross-enrolment ratio, gross-retention rate, parent-teacher ratio, to name a few.

What we need is the Shiksha Gunvaata Abhiyan where all stakeholders can be engaged meaningfully. Some experiments have been tried and got positive results under various initiatives in various schools in Chennai, Andaman & Nicobar Islands and Union Territories of Daman & Diu and Dadra & Nagar Haveli. It is indeed an important mission to be addressed to ensure ‘quality in school education’.

Dr A Senthil Kumaran is co-founder & chief confluence at The Learners Confluence, an educational intuitive to provide customised learning experiences for educators. Prior to this he served as the Principal Counsellor & Head Education Excellence Initiatives at CII Institute of Quality (CII IQ). He was responsible for initiating CII’s Schools Excellence Cluster and more than 16 such clusters in government, government-aided and private management schools. He launched the CII Education Excellence model. His training programme for senior leadership team and management committee members for educational institutions has been widely acclaimed.