Debate on quality may roughly be associated with the period after World War I (1920s) when scientific management made a breakthrough in American industrial units to improve efficiency. Later, when consumers started demanding value for their money, work got divided to ensure that they get perfection by repeatedly performing the same small task and the probability of producing a defective product may get minimised. Latterly, quality surpassed the boundaries of the industrial sector and gripped the service sectors like hospitals, tourism and education.
QUALITY IN EDUCATION
However, when it comes to quality in education there is no universally accepted definition. From time to time, the amendments in the concept of quality in education were made as per requirements. The first major advancement came in March 1990 in the ‘World Conference on Education for All’ held at Jomtien in Thailand wherein ‘The Education for All’ Programme was launched with contributions from five major international bodies i.e. 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. UNICEF (2000) took it in a broader perspective and demonstrated that when five stakeholders i.e. learners, content, processes, environments and outcomes work in tandem, quality in education gets ensured. UNESCO’s (2001) quality education deﬁnition underlines the universal access to education with a child-centred learning environment and fostering of a learning culture in schools and classrooms. All these definitions aim at achieving quality in education with their own viewpoint.
TECHNOLOGICAL CHANGE AND QUALITY OF EDUCATION IN INDIA
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 in private and government schools. 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 students so that their entry and acclimatization in institutions of higher learning may not get obstructed. 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, which force them to leave their studies in between or commit suicides in the worst cases. Even if some students succeed to complete their degree, 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. Studies have shown that in the year 2021, in just one minute, 21.1 million messages were sent, 500 hours of content loaded was on YouTube, 2 lakh people tweeted, 28000 subscribers watched Netflix, 1.4 million people watched Facebook and 69 million people sent messages on Whatsapp. It is anticipated that in the near future, robots will take a considerable portion of today’s manual jobs like driving, home security and house cleaning. Drones will automatically detect holes on roads and plug them, and artificial intelligence will facilitate automatic replenishment (ordering) of milk and vegetables in the refrigerator. Against such a rapidly changing technology, we need to ponder whether we are providing quality education to our students who are entering class I today and will become ready for highly skilled jobs by the year 2040.
Alas! We are miles away from imparting quality education to our students. The Indian government’s own survey which took place in 2019-20 across 15 lakh schools in the country under Unified District Information System for Education Plus (UDISE+) has highlighted that less than 12% of government schools had internet facilities and 30% had functional computers. It speaks volume about the sub-standard quality of the teaching-learning process. Over and above, numerous forms of online education tools were used to impart learning through Whatsapp, Zoom, Email etc. during lockdown but in the absence/deficiency of smartphones, laptops and good internet connection students were forced to leave their studies in between and join the labour force to support their families. Bringing cosmetic changes in the education sector to gain cheap popularity or votes won’t serve the purpose. Monster technology revolution has already raised its head which needs to be countered strategically to be able to harness the benefits of the latest technology without losing more jobs. It is not that the mission cannot be achieved.
WHAT NEEDS TO BE DONE
We need to emulate the Chinese growth model. China, which is also highly populated, first transformed its human resources to human wealth to earn the tag of ‘factory of the world’. China made substantial investment in modernising the education sector in general and technical education in particular. A pool of economically efficient engineers (vis-à-vis US and Europeans) innovated and developed the latest technology enabling commodities which MBAs sold in the big Chinese market. By perfecting their supplies domestically, Chinese companies gained confidence to beat the competition at international levels. Further, the Chinese intellectuals who had settled overseas were provided attractive incentives to return.
We also need to make substantial investment in the education sector - both in elementary and higher education. As Chinese propagated Mandarin as a language for learning and communication, we should focus on learning in English where we have a competitive edge. By and large, consensus on one curriculum should be developed (at least till higher secondary) and that too after an approval by a committee of top academicians and corporates (not to honour any political commitment) who assure placement of students after qualifying the curriculum approved. The rotten 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 results. All stakeholders should be roped in to assess the performance of a teacher who has the responsibility to build the future of India. By adopting standard measures in time, India should turn out to be an icon of quality education and redefine the meaning of quality in education for the world.