Sunday, 28 June 2015

Quality Education Enhancement

I have a deep interest in developments in the education industry. The education industry, like all other established industries, has tried from time to time to reinvent itself. As such, we have witnessed changes in many aspects of educational enterprise. The following list is not exhaustive:

  1. the content of curricula
  2. the methodologies of delivering that content
  3. the job descriptions of teachers
  4. educational technologies
  5. the widespread privatisation of education in some areas
  6. the mode of government provision
  7. And we have seen the introduction of buzz words - the need for better school governance or the need to improve governance structures, or the need for effectiveness, efficiency and economy in the management of schools, or the need to improve the educational outcomes of students. ... you know them! But, for the most part these buzzwords have remained just that - buzz words, because the education industry seems to lack enough of the human resources who are capable of providing committed visionary leadership and who would be able to operationalise these terms to address the problems that policymakers believe need to be addressed with the implementation of their policies. 

Today, the focus in the education industry around the world is on quality education enhancement. This drive seems to be led by multilateral agencies (see UNESCO's website for much information on this subject), and has been accepted by local educational elites. However, I believe that the drive to implement and enhance quality education, however defined, should be guided by a philosophy of education that has its roots in the society that is trying to devise a quality education system for its learners. Afterwards, this country can incorporate elements of other education philosophies that it believes does not run counter to its own into its overall quality education enhancement plan.

However, whatever the guiding force for enhancing quality education, the leaders of this process should realise that this idea of enhancing quality education begs several questions and seek to answer them before they proceed:

  1. What is quality education? 
  2. For whom and to whose benefit is it being implemented?What constitutes quality education and who should determine this?
  3. Who should implement this quality education after it has been decided on and how should it be implemented? 

Let's answer the first two questions. Quality education seems to be education that policy makers employed by the public and private educational enterprises believe will influence learners in a particular way, so that the learners in turn will influence society in a particular way. This "particular way" should be visible in the attitude and behaviours of learners who these policymakers hope will become "good" citizens of their societies, however good citizenship is defined in these societies.

Some societies go further by claiming that the education that they provide for their learners will make them world citizens - a laudable goal since we are living in a globalised world. So, quality education seems to be for all learners in a society and is one that creates "good" citizens.

Now, let's examine question three. What exactly constitutes quality education and who determines this? Quality education seems to be defined by the range of subjects that educational stakeholders within a country and in the case of many countries, educational stakeholders from outside the country believe, that in combination, will create the ideal citizen. So, there are the STEM subjects along with some form of citizenship education, plus any other subjects that are deemed to be important by the policymakers.

Now, having decided on what this quality education looks like, the policymakers put it in the hands of teachers who now have the task of communicating the vision of the policymakers to learners by facilitating and assessing their learning. There are a slew of modern teaching methodologies and assessment tools, ancient and modern, that teachers are expected to draw on. However, the extent to which the teachers will help the policymakers to achieve their goal will be dependent on many factors, not least of which is the extent to which these teachers buy into this vision. So, let's assume that there is buy-in from teachers.

Having put in place quality education, how does a country enhance it? According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary online, "to enhance" means "to increase in value, quality, desirability, attractiveness"; "to heighten"; "to make better". It's obvious then that whoever is doing this enhancement must consider their stakeholders and their reasons for carrying out this enhancement. Having determined this, here are 7 ways that the team that's in charge of this enhancement can go about doing this job.

  1. Since Quality Education Plans are derived from the perceived needs of society, those entrusted with their enhancements should continuously monitor all the changes that are occurring in society to ensure that the education that is being delivered to learners prepare them to cope with these changes. 
  2. Ensure that leadership at all levels of the education system that is committed and buys into the vision of what this quality education is intended to achieve and is capable of converting the vision to measurable goals to guide the process. 
  3. Ensure that the teachers who are entrusted with the task of delivering this quality education and those persons entrusted with the task of guiding the process possess the necessary tools to carry out their jobs. To do this, it will be necessary to offer targeted continuous professional development to (CPD), another buzz word, to these teachers.
  4. Focus on enhancing the critical thinking skills of the leadership, teachers and learners of all ages.
  5. Expand the content of the education offered beyond the village, the town, the city, the country, the region, so as to broaden the perspectives of learners.
  6. Provide learning opportunities for those persons outside of the formal education system who, for whatever reason, didn't manage to grasp much from their earlier schooling, because they have a role to play in their children's learning, a role that they will not be able to play well if they are not literate and numerate.
  7. Reward teachers with cash or kind. It's said that "encouragement sweetens labour". Teachers need reasons to care.

The educational industry at this time is focusing on achieving quality education and continuing to enhance it, and so it should! Some educational institutions at the Micro level - schools and colleges have bought into this idea and are now thinking of ways to enhance what they believe is the quality education that they now provide to learners. I've provided 7 ways that quality education may be enhanced. What would you add to this list? Sound off in the comments section below.

Afterwards, please browse through my book, "Investing in our success: A glimpse into our world" here and share the link with your friends. Thanks much!
I am an Educator with many years of experience in the profession. I am also the author of two books, Investing in our success: A glimpse into our world and The Teacher's Gift. Look out for more titles as I am in the process of writing other books, exploring a myriad of issues in society. In addition, I blog about issues in education here and about the art of writing and  my books in a sister blog. Feel free to follow me on Facebook by clicking on the icon at the top left corner of this page. I welcome your comments, so feel free to start a conversation by leaving your comments below.

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