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Recommendations for 21st century post-secondary education in Guyana and other developing countries - What constitutes quality post-secondary education?

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What constitutes quality post-secondary education?

Finding a proper definition of what is quality post-secondary (higher) education is difficult and tedious at best. The author will focus rather on the systems for quality assurance in education and their appropriateness for measuring the quality of post-secondary education. Bogue describes at least four systems for quality assurance in colleges and universities:

  • Accreditation and program reviews
  • Assessment-and-outcomes
  • Total Quality Management (TQM)
  • Accountability and performance indicators (p. 9)

Accreditation and program reviews. Most developed countries around the world have some form of accreditation process, but in the United States accreditation is know as “the oldest and best known seal of collegiate quality” (Bogue 10). Accreditation is described by Bogue as being “built on the premise and the promise of mission integrity and performance improvement” (10) and involves “periodic institutional or program of self-study, followed by a visit by an external panel of peers who evaluate the program’s or institution’s compliance with a set of external standards” (10). Program reviews are a highly regarded instrument of quality assurance occurring at the discipline level, program level or department level, and involves a self-study and external peer-review (Bogue 10).

Assessment-and-outcomes. This is used to measure academic quality and involves assessing student learning to ensure that it maps to desired stated outcomes for courses and/or programs. Bogue states that “we can, and should, know as much about our students upon their exit as we do upon their entry — about the changes in their knowledge, skills, and attitudes” (11) and ‘outcomes assessment’ measures and quantifies these changes in knowledge, skills, and attitudes.

Total Quality Management (TQM). This system of quality assurance was initially designed for companies in the manufacturing sector and has been tried out education. It focuses on continuous improvement and customer satisfaction and uses customer feedback for this, where the customers are the students. TQM has been very successful at measuring quality in the non-academic aspects of post-secondary education institutions such as advising, registration, facilities management, and other administrative procedures (Bogue 12; Law 67).

Accountability and performance indicators. Accountability is reporting to ‘benefactors’ information such as enrollment trends, retention and graduation rates, job placement rates and pass rates on licensure and other professional examinations; whereas performance indicators are quantitative data on any aspect of the institution that relates to a program or institutional goal (Bogue 13).

The future of post-secondary education in developing countries

The demand for post secondary education in developing countries will most likely rise because of the need for skilled workers who can effectively participate in the new global knowledge-based economy. With this expected increase in demand for post-secondary education, governments or private institutions will have to provide this education to the people who need it. However, the cost of this education should not be out of the reach of the average citizen, and should not be seen as an elitist item, but rather as an entity that can lead to an improved standard of living for the individual and an improved economy of the nation.

Developing nations will also need to broaden their post-secondary education base in order survive and succeed in this new knowledge based economy. Mellow and Katopes stress that developing nations must educate more citizens to higher levels, espousing a greater number of citizens with mid-level inetllectual skill sets, which they argue will lead to a larger middle class enabling citizens to move across income levels (56). They argue that the community college is a perfect means of doing this because “a community college system could offer a model of higher education that provides flexibility in terms of curriculum and training and is at the same time deeply tied to the specific character and needs of the local economy” (58)

Spangler and Arthur observe that in most developing countries there is a missing link between secondary school and the workforce or between secondary school and university (43), which when coupled with the fact that there is an increasing need for skilled workers to fill the vacancies in the growing knowledge economies of developing nations hilights the need for more community colleges in developing countries. “UNESCO’s Education for All campaign is one example of an initiative that is being promoted as a way to import the American community college model” (Spangler and Arthur 42) as a means of expanding the skills set of the the workforce in developing nations

According to Chapman and Austin, the future of higher (post-secondary) education in developing countries depends on the complex relationship between governments, its citizens and higher education institutions, and that “the main challenge of the next decade centers on how institutions define and shape their external relationships with government, on one hand, and with the larger citizenry, on the other” (4). The following critical issues will face developing nations in the coming years regarding higher education:

  • Publically funded higher education institutions will have to be more accountable.
  • Growth of higher education institutions will have to be managed so that equity is preserved, costs are managed, and quality is maintained.
  • New relationships between governments and higher education institutions will have to be forged in order to mitigate the stress that will be caused by the shift towards the privatization and decentralization of higher education.
  • Governments and higher education institutions will have to deal with increased autonomy that allows institutions to manage themselves within the government’s policy directives and/or budget (Chapman and Austin 4).