Saturday, September 25, 2010

QUALITY ISSUES IN EDUCATION - ARTICLE 03


Anil Sharma from Kanpur was very keen to qualify as a software engineer. He was advised by the counsellor of a private university to join their four year degree course which would give him excellent opportunities in the future. Anil spent rupees five lakhs on the course fees and another four lakhs on stay and food arrangements, in Navi Mumbai, during the four years. He worked very hard and secured excellent grades. When he realised that placements were not coming forth, he started trying for admission to a post-graduate course.

He was totally disappointed to learn that he was not eligible for such admission because the private university was not a recognized one. Beena Wagh joined an autonomous MBA course of 2 years duration. Due to shortage of faculty, students (boys and girls) had no option but to attend lectures at the unearthly hours of 10.00 pm to 2.00 am! Forget the quality, even the safety of the children was not considered by the management.

Ramesh Bhatia joined a premier institute through a competitive examination. The faculty at the institute was highly qualified, but many of them failed to deliver the contents in a manner that the students could  understand. Some of the teachers were not even audible beyond the third row of the class!

Sunita Joshi joined a university recognized MCM course. Although the computer hardware was available as per the university norms, many of the required software were not available leading to gross under-utilization of the resources.

Above instances are just a few examples that show the way educational activities are being managed in India. Despite the efforts of bodies like the Education Boards, the UGC and AICTE to regulate the quality of educational activities, many schools and colleges get away with inefficient and ineffective working as demand exceeds supply.

We can define Quality as: “Achieving satisfaction of customer through giving him value for the money he spends and fulfilling all his needs and expectations”. Surprisingly many educationists still believe that students are not their customers. The attitude is one of autocratic-benevolence and the issue of trying to achieve customer satisfaction at student level is often ignored as “not applicable in our case” 

Some of the typical quality-related issues that lead to dissatisfaction of the parents and students are:
  • Course contents / curriculum do not have linkage with the needs of trade and industry,
  • Lack of in-depth knowledge of the subject by the faculty,
  • Lack of faculty’s ability to make the student understand the subject,
  • Effectiveness of the examination-system as a means of testing the student’s knowledge is questionable,
  • Absence of a helpful approach by the administration,
  • Transparent communication with the students and parents is missing, Ill-equipped library and laboratories,
  • Infrastructure is inadequate to meet the students’ requirements,
  • Institution is not recognized / accredited,
  • Foreign universities that charge high fees although they do not follow any standards, nor do they enjoy any kind of reputation in their own country.
  • Cumbersome process of admission,
  • Need for good housekeeping and proper maintenance of records,
  • Not offering guidance / assistance to students in respect of placement or career-counselling,
  • Absence of a mechanism to ensure training and up-gradation of the faculty and other personnel,
  • Not involving students and parents in improvement of the institution’s processes.
In the absence of focus on such quality issues, we cannot expect that the students and parents will be satisfied customers. The concept of managing quality in service businesses like  education, banking and insurance has come much later than in the manufacturing
organizations. Even in manufacturing organizations, the Americans and Europeans have adopted this concept much later than the Japanese. Indeed, the secret behind Japan’s astounding success after the 1950’s was the adoption of quality management principles of the
Quality Gurus (mostly Americans) like Dr. Deming and Dr. Juran. In the 1970’s, the Japanese company Matsushita bought a color TV plant that was earlier being run by Motorola. Prior to takeover by the Japanese management, the average rate of defects per TV, was 2.2 per year. Three years later the defect rate had dropped to an average of 0.03 per TV, per year.

What would have been the investment to achieve this change?
The major efforts put in by the Japanese management included modification of the product designs to reduce chances of field-failures, changing the manufacturing processes to reduce defect generation and sourcing components from more reliable suppliers. Matsushita did not go in for a complicated technology, nor did they change the workforce. All they did was to use the concepts of quality management propagated by Dr. W. Edwards Deming and Dr. Joseph Juran. These concepts were, years later, formalized as the eight principles of quality  management and adopted by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) Geneva and by Motorola who developed the “Six Sigma Management System”

The Six Sigma Management System teaches us to use the process approach for managing quality. The process approach looks at every activity as management of inputs in such a manner that you can achieve the desired output. For example, a school wishes to achieve 100% pass results in the Board examinations. To achieve this output, the management must identify the key input factors that need to be managed such as capability of the teachers, hours of practice put in by the students, selection of the right books, etc. They may also study the best practices for the same process in other successful schools and adopt these to make their internal-processes more effective.

Another important principle that Six Sigma uses is based on Dr. Deming’s philosophy that every employee in the organization is responsible for quality and ultimate responsibility is that of the top management. So, in the case of an educational institution, not only the faculty and staff but also the students and the parents have a role to play in improving the quality of the institution’s processes.

Using tools like collection of data to understand processes, brainstorming in cross-functional teams to arrive at root causes of problems, building preventions in processes to minimize mistakes / defects in a proactive manner, deep involvement of senior management in identifying pain areas of the organization and a very strong commitment to achieve customer satisfaction are some of the most important elements on which a Six Sigma management system is based.

Any school / college / institute can use the concepts and tools of Six Sigma, to improve the effectiveness of their processes which would result in increased satisfaction of the children and parents and higher revenues for the organization.

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G.K.K. Singh (Nickname: GKPK) is a B.Tech and Silver Medalist (IITBombay), MBA (IIM-Calcutta), IRCA-UK Lead Auditor, Six Sigma Master Black Belt and Director of Asian Institute of Quality Management - Pune. He can reached at: director@aiqmindia.com

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