Saturday, August 1, 2015

Elements of Quality Education



Abstract

The quality of education has been one of the most debated issues in the world. For example, in Bhutan the people have blamed towards the education system for failing to provide a quality education for Bhutanese children. However, some educationists argue that the quality of education is a subjective issue and entails multi-dimentional references and an objective yardstick is needed to determine what contributes to constructing a quality education. Nonetheless, this research explores some indispensable indicators, which if observed would address the problem of lack of quality in education. The paper succinctly discusses, in sequence, elements such as a high quality of teachers, standardized curriculum, efficient learners, appropriate resources, capable leaders and supportive parents, which are all essential for a quality education. This is elaborated in the form of a Teaching Learning Support (TLS) model of quality education, which has been deduced in the course of carrying out a literature review.


Introduction

Quality education has become one of the most talked about issues in many parts of the world. This issue has recently been discussed by Bhutanese people in social media (Facebook and Twitter) and in public places such as restaurants and gatherings. In 2006, it was even deliberated at the highest levels of Government - the legislative body in the National Assembly.  As a result, the Bhutanese have questioned the performance of educators, thereby undermining confidence in the educational practices and the overarching plans and policies which have been instituted in recent times with the help of scholars from the renowned Universities of Canada, America, and Australia, especially from the 1990s. In response to the increasing interpretation and manipulation of the issue by the Bhutanese people, a small scale research project was urgently required in order to test the assumptions and opinions widely expressed in the public domain.

Characteristically, the term ‘Quality Education’ seems to be a subjective concept and the understanding of it may differ from person to person; however, a number of definitions regarding a quality of education exist which testifies the intricacy and varied character of the idea. For instance, UNICEF (2000) discusses five dimensions of quality education, “healthy learners; conducive environments; relevant curricula; child-friendly pedagogy; and useful outcomes” (p. 4). All these elements contribute to building a quality education in a system, thereby enabling an indispensable right to students for effective learning. The author has developed a similar model entitled a Teaching Learning Support (TLS) model.

Therefore, this study seeks in particular to discuss some of the core dimensions or elements of learning, namely the quality of teachers, curriculum, learners, resources, professional leaders and parents.

Quality Teaching
The quality teachers and curriculum have dramatic influences on quality teaching process. The Figure 1 highlights the first part of a TLS model of quality education. This is further explained in the following two sub-headings, namely quality teachers and quality curriculum:

Figure1.  The First Part of TLS Model of Quality Education
The quality teachers and curriculum have dramatic influences on quality teaching process. These two elements are paramount for successful achievement of quality teaching in the school

Quality Teacher
Quality teacher can be as important as quality curriculum. Osborne (1999) says that curriculum is nothing more than pieces of paper unless the teacher converts it to useful learning experiences. Importantly, Josephine & Amukowa (2013) contend that the root of quality education is a quality teacher. The Bhutanese people may advocate child-centered education with elevated passion and zest; however, they cannot deny the fact that it is largely ‘in the hands and minds’ of teachers that brings the best results (Dorji, 2007, p.68).  Thus, in the hands of a motivated, qualified and well prepared teacher, even the least promising students are likely to do well in their studies.

In addition, Crahay (2004) as cited in Sherub ( 2008) notes that even when there are considerable variations in learners’ conditions, teachers can bring a beneficial pressure on students, thereby enhancing the quality levels of performance and success. At the heart of an education system lays the teachers who play a very pertinent role in nurturing quality learning in students (Sherub, 2008). Nothing is truer when some learned people in the world say that the mistakes of teachers are reflected on the nation. Quality education is a race between the quality teacher and catastrophe in the country. Cole & Knowles (2000) & Shulman (2003) in Pollard & Bourne claim that it is imperative the teachers embody good academic knowledge to affect efficient teaching-learning processes in the class. Thus, teachers are the linchpins on which the quality achievement of an education system hinges. The Figure 1 on page 2 shows that teachers and curriculum are important elements for the quality teaching process.

Quality Curriculum                                                                                     
A quality curriculum is believed to be as important as the quality teachers. The purpose of a curriculum or any educational program is to achieve diverse goals that might have been designed “within a framework of theory and research, past and present professional practice, and the changing needs of society” (Parkay, F. Standford, B.H. & Gougeon, T.D. 1996). Without a quality curriculum sounds students learning may not happen.

Essentially, the quality of students’ learning is strongly determined by the type of curriculum that is in place in the education system. A curriculum which contains the elements of learning is more likely to enable teachers and students to explore and enhance the multiplicity of innate potential the learners possess. The nature of the curriculum should be not only gender sensitive and inclusive but also outcomes oriented (Glatthorn & Jailall, 2000). All curricula are supposed to be learner-centered, of a standardized curriculum design and free from discrimination, particularly in terms of cultural diversity, multiple intelligences, in-born talents and the vested interests students have for their own learning.

UNICEF (2000) points out, “National goals for education, and outcome statements that translate those goals into measurable objectives should provide the starting point for the development and implementation of curriculum.” Curricula must entail reliable and contextualized studies, whereby, the three domains of learning, namely psycho-social, affective and cognitive aspects are available to our students. UNICEF (2003) robustly puts forward the view that while designing the curriculum, an emphasis should be on deeper learning areas rather than just a broad coverage of some aspects of knowledge. It is believed that these learning areas are inevitable attributes. The curriculum is expected to be a value based education containing literacy, numeracy and life skills putting more emphasis on child-centered method of teaching (UNICEF, 2000). Raising the standard of academic curriculum provides an opportunity to embody the interests and skills of students, hence is more likely to ensure the future of the students than exposing them to a de-personalized curriculum. A sound curriculum can help to achieve educational goals of producing well qualified, skilled and motivated future citizens in the nation.

Quality Learning

The quality learners and resources significantly contribute to quality learning. The Figure 2 shows the second part of a TLS model of quality education. This is explained in details in the succeeding two paragraphs:
Figure2.  The Second Part of TLS Model of Quality Education
Quality learners and approriate resources can enhance the quality learning. These two important elements account for high percentage of attaining quality learning in the school.


Quality Learners

Good health, nutritious diet in early childhood, and nurturing psychosocial experiences contribute to producing quality learners in the schools. McCain & Mustard (1999) as cited in UNICEF (2000) maintains that children learn well when they are healthy physically, socially, and mentally. A healthy childhood life, in particular, for the first 3 years, renders a base for a good life for academic outcomes to flourish later. Good food, a balanced diet can provide children with opportunities for a wholesome development. For instance, a child who has good health is less likely to miss school and continuity of the teaching learning process in the class. Regular attendance seems to enable a student to do well in class and in both curricular and co-curricular activities in the school. There can be a strong correlation between healthy learners and a quality education.

Fuller, et al (1999) demonstrates that children who attend the school consistently do well academically and as a result, this significantly influences achievement. To cite an example, Miske, Dowd et al. (1998) found that students who went to school regularly in Malawi had significant gains in learning and minimal repetition and dropout rates. Good curricula and  teachers are rendered ineffective if the learners are passive, disinterested or frequently absent from school.  The Figure 2 on page 5 shows the quality learners and resources contributes to quality learning.

Quality Resources

Well appointed and stimulating classrooms and adequate teaching-learning materials have an important bearing on achieving quality learning. The school facilities are likely to be important along with curriculum and good teachers in order to produce a quality teaching-learning process. Fuller (1999) strongly argues that “empirical evidence is inconclusive as to whether the condition of school buildings is related to higher student achievement after taking into account student’s background”, however, in India, a study has been carried out by Carron & Chau, (1996) who sampled 59 schools, out of which only 49 schools had buildings; 25 schools had 1 toilet; 20 schools had electricity; 10 schools had 1 library room each and 4 schools had 1 television set each. The study found that there was a strong correlation between sufficient resources in school with students’ learning scores in Mathematics and Hindi (Carron & Chau, 1996).

In Latin America, 50,000 grade three and four students have been sampled by Williams, D., 2000 who found that schools which lacked the teaching and learning materials and insufficient library facilities had significantly lower test scores as compared to the well equipped and furnished schools. William’s finding concurred with schools in Botswana, Nigeria and Papua New Guinea (Pennycuick, 1993).

The various uses of technology are testimony to have developed student-centered academic environment in schools. For example, learning through the internet, video and tele-conferencing and televised educational talk which can be interactive and time saving may add significance to the quality of educational processes. Droste (2000) also purports that internet technologies may be used as a substitute to other methods, an improvement which could be used by many schools in the developing nations. Chambers (2000) claims, “There are two fundamental equalizers in life — the Internet and Education. E-learning eliminates barriers of time and distance, creating universal learning-on-demand opportunities for people, companies and countries.”


Quality Support Services

The quality leaders and parents essentially accounts for quality support services in order to achieve quality education. This is illustrated in Figure3 which also shows the third part of a TLS model of quality education. An extensive elaboration is provided in the following two sub-headings:

Figure3.  The Third Part of TLS Model of Quality Education

Quality leaders and quality parents are two indispensable cornerstones who can provide a quality support services to happen teaching learning processes in the school.



Quality Leaders
The leadership and management skills of school leaders impacts on the attainment of quality education in a system. It takes a few positive words from a school principal to motivate teachers and learners, and a few negative words to de-motivate them.  The school head is looked upon as the most informed and powerful person in a school hierarchical system, it is crucial that the leader embodies what he/she tells and promises for the cause of the school. For example, a phrase like ‘I saw you going late to the morning assembly’ would only question the management and leadership credibility of the head. So, the school head should be mindful of his words and actions as their leadership and management styles can seriously affect the whole school system (Thinley, 2014, p 24).

There are certain protocols which a school leader must not neglect owing to the significant attribution each has on achievement of quality education in school:

First, there are curricular and extra-curricular activities in the school which if neglected could erode motivation of teachers and students which could adversely affect quality learning. Establishing a tradition to uplift the dignity of students and teachers can be institutionalized in an accreditation system.  Sergiovanni (2002) in Thinley (2014) robustly says that things get done when there is a reward mechanism for every aspect of competition and initiative carried out by the school citizens. The objective of delivering a quality education to students is more likely to have a positive influence on the culture in a school.

Second, running a school doesn’t absolutely fall on the school head alone. It takes a collective and concerted effort of the head, teachers and ancillary staff to deliver the quality education to students. Thus, empowerment of all staff with power and responsibilities is paramount as it promises measurable outcomes.

Finally, an effective head always strives hard for the benefit of all staff and students. The head ensures that a school is a “homecoming” for students and teachers. It is a matter of ethics and morality and there is no denying the fact that practices of harassment, bullying, and corporal punishment in a school is against the principles of good school culture (Thinley, 2014). Instead, values like honesty, authenticity, integrity and love (HAIL) must be greeted, claimed and encouraged enthusiastically for the development of wholesomeness in learners (Treasure, 2013, in Ted Talk, Scotland). The school is ultimately for the learners therefore, the vision, mission, aims and objectives of the school must be geared towards development of quality students. 

Quality Parents
In contemporary world, the relevance of parental role towards the education for their children is of vital significance. The children whose parents are educated do fairly well in any curricular and co-curricular activities in schools. In other words, a supportive home ambience when provided to children is conducive to their academic success (Marzano, 2003).  Besides, Barnard (2004), Henderson (1988), Shumox & Lomax (2001) are of the view that the performance of students in academic fields depends heavily on the parental engagement in their daily learning activities.

Krashan (2005) confirmed that learners, whose parents are caring, supportive, educated, and time-conscious about their learning, do better in standardized tests than children whose parents are otherwise. Interestingly, some parents even take part in school activities for the development of their children which is welcoming and exemplary to others. As a result, the parental support for the development of the students and success of the school is urgently but ardently needed.



Conclusion

The elements of successful learning such as the well qualified and conscientious teachers, quality curricula, motivated learners, abundant resources, efficient leaders, and supportive parents are the core components that determine the quality of education in the country. Schools are more likely to be known for the quality achievement of education if good care has been given to TLS model of quality education. It may be recommended that educators have good knowledge on this model before they embark on any new educational undertakings for the cause of learners and the future citizens of the country. The future of the country depends on today’s youth. Having access to quality education has been tacitly understood as the right of the learner. “What will be the fate of the country if there are high numbers of unproductive youth in the country?” is the question every person has to ask, listen, understand, analyze and resolve collectively.

The figure 4 is a summary of some core elements which are necessary for the development of quality education in a school system.







Figure 4: Elements of quality education




   
     Quality     
 Curriculum


QUALITY
OF
EDUCATION

 Quality   Teachers


    Quality    
    Learners


Quality   
Resources
   
     Quality     
 Leaders

   
     Quality     
 Parents

 




























A quality education is expected when all the 6 elements as shown in the Figure 4 are incorporated by the curriculum designers, while framing the curriculum and implemented by the educators while educating the children.












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