Steps for Quality Enhancement and Sustenance in Higher Education

1. Introduction:
There is a common saying which says, “the king’s respect is limited to his own kingdom whereas a learned man is respected everywhere” (Swadesh pujyate Raja, Vidvam Sarvatra Pujyata). That is why in our country, from ancient times, education (Vidya) was considered to be ‘the third eye’ of man, which not only gave him insight but also mental strength and equilibrium of material and spiritual life. Various religious scriptures and number of philosophical thought in India too have highlighted the importance of education right from the early days of human civilization and claimed that salvation is attained through obtaining the true knowledge.[1]
In the modern age of civilization Swami Vivekananda too is of the view that a national cannot progress without proportionate growth in education of a persons. According to him a society cannot be transformed into a strong nation with moral and cultural values only through education of the society. In his own words, “Education, Education can unlock all doors for a progress “A nation advances in proportion to education and intelligence spread among masses” If India is to grow to her full potential as a strong, united, prosperous nation, a nation attuned to the highest and ethical moral values, true to the genius of her cultural and spiritual heritage; it is possible only though transformation and regenerative power of education only-a truly creative endeavor. It can help India to grow into her full potential as a strong united nation with strong moral and cultural values”.[2]
Therefore knowledge has become more powerful and essence of any developed society. It has strategic importance for everyone because it facilitates in modifying and replacing the factors that narrow the social development of any society. Knowledge thus is the foundation and basis of growth and development of any society in the world. If we want to play strategic role in world at large it is necessary however to view education seriously from its generation, scientific, technical and the structures that facilitate in increasing the capacities and capabilities on the one hand and traditions and practices which hinders the process of growing into full potential. We cannot thus afford to take a halfhearted gaze at education rather immediate and socio, political and economic actions should be initiated to increase in the ability of ‘how-to-do-it’[3].
2. Era of Liberalization:
However the decision to a paradigm shift may not be comfortable within the given environment of economic liberalization, globalization and privatization that were introduced from the year 1991 in India. In this context, globalization may be defined as the interdependence and interconnectedness of the modern world through an increase in the flow of goods, services, information and capital both human and physical. In the words of Deepak Nayyar globalization is “simply as the expansion of economic activities across political boundaries of the nation.  More important perhaps, it refers to a process of increasing economic integration and growing economic inter-dependence between countries in the world economy.  It is associated not only with an increasing cross border movement of goods, services, capital, technology, information and people, but also with an organization of economic activities which straddles national boundaries.  This process is driven by the lure of profit and threat of competition in the market”.[4] Russi Mody in his article titled “Globalization Efforts with Accent in Export” views globalization as a two-way thing.  First, Globalization envisages free competition, high productivity using state of the art of technology and second, selling in one single market place of the whole world.[5] But Prof. C.T. Kurien views global economy, “as a collection of heterogeneous units with different agendas inter-acting with one another in a variety of ways and thus changing its character over time.”[6]
Globalization and liberalization as practiced and advocated world over has resulted in the perception of higher education as commercial product, with dealings in it being governed by market forces and principles of demand and supply. Though higher education exists to serve the society yet actual developments in world over indicate that education is treated as a commodity that could be traded beyond the national boundaries in the form of service. The reality of liberalization in India has led to a mushrooming of private institutes of higher education, offering multiple vocational courses of suspicious quality. Some even offered degrees of foreign Universities to the innocent customers.[7] This situation has brought about a situation on the one side where markets forces moved by profit and quick profit alone, neglected the task of knowledge generation through the promotion of basic sciences, and quality education.
But on the other side under GATS regime India has to allow the opening of foreign university campuses on Indian soil and admit Indian students to their courses. As a reciprocal measure, Indian universities can also open their campuses on foreign soil and admit their students too.[8] It will result on the one hand, in increased privatization and on the other hand enhanced competition among various institutions offering higher education services to different category of people. In this situation only those institutions offering higher quality educational service alone will be able to sustain themselves in the competitive markets and those educational institutions failed to offer quality education will go out of business in market terms. Therefore, quality assurance in higher education is need of the hour with opening up of the educational frontier.
3. Need for Quality:
What is quality? It may be defined in terms of excellence, perfection, standards and value for money, competencies for work, consistency and relevance. On the quality of education, a policy perspective (1985) entitled ‘Challenges of Education’, it is said that
“a quality-conscious system could produce people who have the attributes of functional and social relevance, mental ability and physical dexterity, efficacy and reliability, and exercise initiative and make innovation and experimentation with new situations. To these personal attributes, on could add the dimension of a value system, conducive to harmony, integration and the welfare of the weak and the disadvantaged.”[9]
Quality therefore defines the goals and purposes of education. Quality impacts the content of higher education, its processes, its output or product, as it seeks to develop human resources with required skills, excellent in performance and capable of delivering the goods as a unit of the work force. The quality of knowledge in a society depends upon the quality of education it provides. Quality makes the knowledge relevant in individual and social needs. Quality makes education socially and individually relevant, but if the quality of education is not assured then the education, which is advocated as a solution to social problems, may itself become a problem. Quality education thus is required today, to enable persons, societies and nations to acquire the skills and competencies required for living meaningfully in a competitive, global world. The World Conference on Higher Education (UNESCO 1998) had rightly stated that each higher education institution should define its mission to provide access to quality education the basis of human rights and democracy.[10]
4. Steps to Sustain Quality:
Once we are convinced of the importance and the role of knowledge or education can play in the development of any society, society at large should attempt to answer the following questions. How good do we want to be? Who is doing is best? How do they do it? How can we adapt what they do in other countries? How can we be better than the best? How well are we doing as compared to others?[11] To build a culture of excellence and full potential therefore all those agencies involved directly or indirectly in higher education should[12] commit ourselves to a paradigm shift in favour of excellence through internal, self-initiated, logically planned and morally rooted committed decisions. Following are the steps suggested from the perspective of Management, Teachers, Students and society at large for quality enhancement and substance in higher education. 
4.1. Effective Leadership:
Mahatma Gandhi once said, “We must be the change we wish to see in the world.”
The development of quality education first and foremost will depend upon the quality academic leadership provided within an institution. It is the quality of leadership determines the quality of an organization.  Accordingly the leadership therefore must create an environment, which encourages performance of every one. Educational institutions should promote a transformative leadership who is capable of translating intentions into actions and actions into quality. Visionary leadership adopts and institutes an effective ‘leadership system’ for an education organization. The visionary leadership system means how a leadership is exercised, formally and informally, throughout the organization and what are the basis for and the way the key decisions are made, communicated and carried out. “It includes structure and mechanisms for decision making, selection and development of senior leaders, administrators, department heads and faculty leaders, and reinforcement of values, directions and performance expectations.”[13]
According to the Baldrige Education Criteria for Performance Excellence in Higher Education, the leadership system should perform the following:
  • A visionary leader should “set directions and create a student-focused, learning-oriented climate; set clear and visible values; and high expectations;
  • ensure the creation of strategies, systems and methods for achieving excellence, stimulating innovation and building knowledge and capabilities;
  • inspire and motivate entire workforce and encourage all faculty and staff to contribute, to develop and learn to be innovative and to be creative;
  • be responsible to all stakeholders for the ethics, vision, actions and performance of education organizations;
  • serve as role model through organization’s senior leaders ethical behavior and their personal involvement in planning, communications, coaching, development future leaders, review of organizational performance, and faculty and staff recognition;
  • build loyalties and teamwork based on the organization’s values and the pursuit of shared goals;
  • encourage and support initiative and appropriate risk taking;
  • avoid chains of command that require long decision plans;
  • respect the capabilities and requirements of faculty and staff and other stakeholders;
  • see high expectations for performance and performances improvement.”[14]

4.2. Developing a Quality Culture:
There is a need to develop a habitual quality culture in our institutions. This will require mental infrastructure more than physical infrastructure, because quality depends upon our sincerity to purpose, our vision and conviction to do our duties. In this process the strong areas in the institution such as teaching, research or innovation, etc., should be identified to boost further development. It should become a motivation for further improvement. For this the necessary strategy should be employed to put extra effort and resources, into areas needing improvement and those having potential for growth. It means number of goals need to be reorganized in the light of present and future challenges. Hence new targets will have to be set up for the future and new work plans will have to be drawn up keeping these targets in mind so that sustenance of quality could be maintained to move with quality achievement.
4.3. Establishing Monitoring Systems:
A system needs to be established to monitor the activities, functioning and achievements of the institution in a continuous manner. Monitoring should be a regular activity and based on acceptance by all stakeholders namely Management, the Principal, the teachers, the students, the non-academic staff and parents Indeed it should involve the entire institution as one. It will be more effective if it has a participatory nature wherein all are working towards quality assurance and sustenance participation in monitoring the entire system.
4.4. Teaching Faculty:
It is said that the destiny of India is dependent upon the talent, skills hard work, commitment, foresight, patriotism, missionary zeal, quest for knowledge of the teachers. And “We the Teachers of World” can shape the destiny of our country and the world.[15] No educational institution thus can maintain and sustain the quality if the teaching faculty does not believe in the importance of quality in higher education. Teachers should be convinced intensely within them that teaching is not a profession or occupation rather a distinctive mission. Like William Lyon (1970) every teacher should say that “In my mind, teaching is not merely a life work, a profession, an occupation or a struggle, but a passion. I love to teach as a painter loves to paint, as a musician loves to play, as a singer loves to sing, and as a strong man rejoices to run a race”. Unfolding the same line of thinking Rabindranath Tagore said, “A teacher cannot teach unless he is teaching himself. A lamp cannot burn another lamp unless it continues itself to burn.” One has to acknowledge about the fact that teacher’s role is highly sophisticated professional mission which requires adequate know-how with regard to all programmes of social engineering. It is imperative therefore the teachers have to play a vital, active and decisive role in fostering universal education and promoting and developing the values and vision in the society.
4.4.1. Accountability:
This requires accountability among teachers. What is accountability in the educational institutions? In very ordinary terms, “it means being punctual, taking all lectures and tutorials, teaching well, reading the latest books and journals, sharing knowledge freely, kindling the interest of the students in the subject completing the portion on time, helping students to learn, evaluating student answer scripts fairly and returning them on time. Accountability also means being approachable and helpful to one’s stakeholders. It does not prevent one from being firm with then when required.”[16]
Accountability also means willingness to accept moral obligations and continually strive to improve the quality of the educational situation in the institution. One cannot expect the government to enforce accountability from the teachers rather it must be based on a system that confronts teachers more directly with their successes and failures. In other words, quality assurance can come through teaches who are willing to accept their responsibility to their students, to their institution, to society and to their mission. This will require dedicated staff, committed to quality assurance. For this teachers in higher education institutions must come from the best brains in the society. Only teachers with high intellectual capacities, self-confidence and good communication skills alone should be taken to ensure quality.[17] These teachers should be exposed to emerging frontiers of knowledge so that they can update their teaching abilities and skills.
This is not possible with half-baked teachers who are available in maintaining and sustaining the educational system because they are not capable of obtaining any other profession in their life.[18] Sadly, now-a-days very few best brains are eager to seriously choose teaching profession voluntarily. Moreover, truly qualified teachers with human qualities are seldom recruited and the existing ones are not trained properly to perform the jobs of generating knowledge to benefit the society. This has resulted in a bad social environment where the teacher-student integral relation has vanished. Over and above these teachers failed to cultivate in students the quality of aspiration thereby raising the human soul from a selfish state of consciousness to higher states. The teachers have failed to live as living examples in their external behaviour, inner integrity, character and mastery of knowledge.
4.4.2. Training:
In this given situation it is not possible to achieve quality higher education without sufficient training process. In no other profession today, are professionals expected to perform without training. In no profession a professional is demanded without having sufficient professionalism. But in higher education most teaches simply go through their profession without any training in teaching-learning-evaluation techniques. This may not be the case with primary and secondary education in India. But in higher education teachers are called to render high level of quality output in education without proper training. As a result they are unable to give their best in the classroom. Therefore according to Viney Kirpal “a rigorous, highly practical three or four week training for every teacher would generate tremendous confidence in them, especially the beginner, and make them more effective in contributing to the quality of education… This training should focus on subject-specific training as well as technique and the use of audio-visual aids, the latest learner-centric teaching methods facility in the use of English, training in etiquette, good grooming and social behavior since our students have begun to expect it of us teachers.”[19] 
He also advocates to step up partnership with retired teaches of the educational institutions of higher learning and with the educationalist and industrialist parents of the students. In his words “retired teachers renowned for their teaching can be actively involved as volunteers in sharing best teaching practices with their younger colleagues and mentoring them into excellence. Parents are another very rich volunteer resource to be involved in sharing practical, industrial knowledge or knowledge of behavioural skills to students on a regular basis.”[20] Over and above there should be Collaboration with institutions of acknowledged repute known for the rigour of curricula and other academic strategies. This in normal situation often enhances the quality of the teachers of an institution.
Teaches in their pursuit to quality higher education should not forget basics of student teacher relationship. In their attempt to provide quality education students in general should feel a sense of confidence in their teachers. There must exist, a subtle fear of authority to stop such discussions from degenerating into indiscipline.[21] In this sense the teacher becomes a counsellor, guide and a friend. Dr. Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan thus said, “Help the students to think rightly, make them feel nobly, let them do rightly, above all let them posses the spirit of compassion, universal love and brotherhood so that we can life together in a global village as brothers and sisters”.[22]
4.5. Students:
Steps to quality enhancement in higher education, student’s commitment and their outlook towards higher education play an important role in determining the quality of education provided in our country. And in any system of higher education, students are the primary stakeholders and they have right to receive quality education. Any educational experiment is meaningless without proper participation and quality improvement of students. Therefore it is said that the best way to measure quality education provided by us is the performance of students in the process of learning and after learning. Now let us see various steps should be undertaken so that students may be helped to attain quality education.
4.5.1. Process of Learning:
Effective learning involves actually doing the activity that in turn, aids knowledge acquisition and understating. All learning has five levels – An increase in knowledge, Memorizing, Acquisition of procedures, Abstraction of meaning, and Understanding. When the teaching and learning outcomes focus on the first three levels, it is called a surface approach to learning. When they focus on the last two levels, it is called a deep approach to learning.
In a recent report brought out by International Commission on Education for Twenty
First Century titled: “Learning: the Treasure Within”, the Commission has identified four pillars of learning, learning to know, learning to do, learning to live together, and learning to be.[23] So the learning may be defined as an element that raise and transforms the consciousness of a person while leading him from darkness to light or enlightenment. This process of learning may be facilitated according M.C. Paul by “instilling the following capabilities in an efficient, effective and excellent manner:
  1. to think logically, analytically, critically and laterally;
  2. to make a healthy and honorable living, employing learning/occupational skills and work experience;
  3. to realize one’s potential for self-development in terms of physical, emotional, intellectual, aesthetic and moral attainment through education and experience; and
  4. to acquire a discriminatory capability to appreciate, imbibe and balance emerging values concerning areas of sustainability, ecosystems, development with equity and civility, harmony and cultural pluralism.”[24]
Speaking about the process of learning a Tamil grammer of the 14th Century compares a good student with a cow. The cow as it comes across a rich pasture never misses the opportunity to graze as much as possible and then at leisure time it starts chewing the cud. Likewise, the superior kind of student never fails to spot the opportunity of gathering as much information and knowledge as they can from the learning sources and then assimilates everything that they have learned. One important difference between our conventional education and learning centred education is that in the latter the learners learn what they would like to learn and not what the teacher wants them to learn.[25] Therefore the students learn better as they are learning what they desire.
In this cow method of learning according to S. Muthukumaran “the learner is taught what to learn and how to learn, he becomes a lifelong learner. A person who is helped to climb a coconut tree will require someone to help him climb another coconut tree. But a person who is taught how to climb a tree will climb any tree anytime without assistance from others. Therefore a learner who underwent learner oriented education is fully equipped to face newer challenges; hence he is likely to highly successful in his life.” [26] Learning process being the central activity of any educational institute the same old syllabi and teaching methods must be replaced by new updated items of teaching and learner centered methods of teaching such as group work, role play, project work, field visit, case study, debates etc., to supplement classroom teaching so that students could translate this knowledge into practical implications.
4.5.2. Education for Employability:
As a result of quantitative expansion in higher education Institutions, the educational institutions in India generating number of students every year. However, the economic situation of our country is not in a position to generation employment opportunities to absorb the graduates passing out from the educational institutions. This is leading to increase in educated unemployed and underemployment. Therefore a multi-pronged strategy is needed to make education more attractive and simultaneously create employment potential.
Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam has proposed steps to meet this challenge. “Firstly, the educational system should highlight the importance of entrepreneurship and prepare the students to get oriented towards setting up of the enterprises… The youth should be imparted the spirit and confidence that “We Can do it”. Secondly, the banking system should provide venture capital right from every village level to the prospective entrepreneurs… Thirdly, the capacity to identify marketable products and methods of enhancement of purchase poser among the people has to be built as part of education.”[27]
The renaissance rigour of pursuing knowledge for its own sake has come to stay for the time being as a goal of the academia. In the post liberalized period education for job and knowledge for utility is a criterion with which the quality of education is assessed across the globe. With the advancement of modern technology and market economy the need for mobilizing an enlightened work-force has become more important especially in commercial, managerial and technical activities in many countries. Accordingly, academic activity in these areas is governed by the criterion of employability. After assessing this trend long before Swami Vivekananda said, “Education is not the amount of information that is put in your mind and runs riot there undigested all you life. The use of higher education is to find out how to solve the problems of life”

[1] NAAC, Best Practices in Higher Education – Report of the National Conference organized by National Assessment and Accreditation Council, Goa, 26th & 27th July 2004, p.37-38; Nyaya, philosophical thought is based on the premise that salvation is attained through knowing the true knowledge.
[2] As quoted by Sinha, S.N.P., Education must be life Building, University News, Vol. 43, No.13.
[3] Paul, M.C., Higher Education in India and the Need of Quality Assurance Mechanisms for Developing a Knowledge Society, University New, Vol. 43, No. 21.
[4] Nayyar, Deepak, Globalization: The Past in our Present, Indian Economic Journal, Vol. No. 43, January - March 1996, No. 3.
[5] Russi, Mody, Globalization Efforts with Accent in Export, The Economic Times, April 21, 1992.
[6] Kurien, C.T., Indian Economic Reforms in the Context of Emerging Global Economy, Economic and Political Weekly, 10 April 1993.
[7] Khanna, Pratibal, Changing Scenario of Higher Education Challenges to Quality Assurance and Sustenance, University News, Vol. 43, No.7.
[8] Ibid.
[9] NAAC, Op.Cit.
[10] As stated by Khanna, Pratibal, Op.Cit.
[11] Kirpal, Viney, Quality in Higher Education: a right of the Stakeholder; University News, Vol 43, No.38.
[12] It means the Management, the Principal, the teachers, the students, the non-academic staff- indeed the entire institution
[13] Mahadevappa, B., The Baldrige Education Criteria for Performance Excellence in Higher Education, University News, Vol. 43, No.16.
[14] Ibid.
[15] Bolashetty, Shripad. S,  Trade in Indian Higher Education Service Sector: Implications  of  WTO’s GATS, University News, Vol 43, No.38.
[16] Kirpal, Viney, Op.Cit.
[17] Khanna, Pratibal, Op.Cit
[18] Sinha, S.N.P, Op.Cit.
[19] Kirpal, Viney, Op.Cit.
[20] Ibid.
[21] Gupta, M. Sen, Teacher-Student Relationship at the University Level, Vol. 43, No. 26.
[22] As quoted by Sinha, S.N.P, Op.Cit.
[23] Delors Commission Report, 1996, as given by Paul, M.C., Op.Cit.
[24] Ibid.
[25] Muthukumaran, S., Learning Centred Education: The need of the Hour, University News, Vol.43, No.13.
[26] Ibid.
[27] Thayagarajan, S.P., Harnessing Science and Technology for Economic and Social Development, University News, p. 19-21.


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