Debate on quality can be linked to the period after World War I (1920s) when scientific management made a breakthrough in American industrial units to improve efficiency. It was much later that the concept of quality surpassed the boundaries of industrial sector and gripped the service sectors like health, tourism, and education.
Quality in education
However, when it comes to quality in education there is no universally accepted definition. The first major advancement came in March 1990 in the ‘World Conference on Education for All’ held at Jomtein in Thailand wherein ‘The Education for All’ programme was launched with contributions from five major international bodies, namely, UNESCO, UNICEF, UNFPA, UNDP and World Bank. Quality was identified as a mechanism to improve the cognitive development of children which can help to achieve the goal of equity. UNESCO’s quality education deﬁnition underlines the need for universal access to education with a child-centered learning environment. It also emphasises on fostering a culture of learning in schools and classrooms.
Technological change and its impact
When it comes to India, we got successful in making education a fundamental right under Right to Education (RTE) Act, 2009 which incorporates free and compulsory education for children between the age group of 6 to 14 years under Article 21A of the Indian constitution. However, the Act is grossly silent on the quality of education which the students will receive. Since private schools charge hefty fees and teachers are accountable for the results, therefore, stakeholders in private schools are always under pressure to imbibe basic qualities in their students. On the contrary, because of lack of accountability, when the pass outs of government schools enter higher education they, at first, become the victims of poor English (written and spoken) besides other skills. Even if some students succeed in attaining their degrees, they only add numeric value to the long queue of unemployed graduates.
Fast changing technology has already transformed the pace of work of human beings. It is anticipated that in near future, robots will take considerable portion of today’s manual jobs. Artificial intelligence will also come in a bigger way. But we are miles away from imparting quality education to our students. Indian government’s own survey conducted jointly by the National University of Educational Planning and Administration and the Department of School Education and Literacy which took place in 2014-15 across 1.52 million schools in 36 states and union territories highlighted the sub-standard quality of the teaching-learning process. Results stated that 40% of Indian schools lacked electricity, only one out five schools had a librarian and worst, only one out of four schools had a computer.
What needs to be done
We need to emulate the Chinese growth model. China has successfully transformed its human resources to human wealth. China made substantial investment in modernising the education sector in general and technical education in particular.
We also need to make substantial investment in the education sector. As Chinese propagated Mandarin as the language for learning and communication, we should focus on learning in English where we have a competitive edge. One curriculum should prevail (at least till higher secondary) and that too after an approval by a committee of top academicians and corporates. The present learning system should be replaced with a system which stimulates creative thinking. Approval to continue in academics (for even the private institutions) should only be granted on the basis of academic performance. Last, the permanency of all teachers should only be for three to five years which can be renewed for another term depending upon the quality of their teaching and attained results.
Rajiv Khosla is an Associate Professor in Institute of Management, DAV College, Chandigarh