Sunday, November 24, 2013
Wednesday, November 20, 2013
The topic, Quality Assurance in Education and Research, comprising of four words, is quite important and it is one of the vital subjects being discussed extensively these days all over the world. Why so? Before knowing and analysing this, it would be appropriate to get familiarized with the meaning of and the spirit behind the four words that make for this heading.
Education: A lifelong process, purpose of which is to realize what already exists within; to develop virtues and on the basis of this to ensure all-round progress of one’s personality. This is the only truth about education, both from the meaning and the spirit point of view. That is why; more than two thousand four hundred years ago Socrates [469-399 BC], a great philosopher from Greece had rightly said, “Education means to bring out what already exists within.” Approximately seventy years ago, Mahatma Gandhi also said, “All-round development of one’s personality on the basis of virtues is education.”
Research: Generally, it is a process to systematically add to a knowledge pool. Moreover, it serves to divulge the reality on the basis of studies and intensive analysis and paves way to make the available knowledge adaptable to the future needs. In short, research is a method, process and system for the addition and advancement of human knowledge, which opens new doors in the field of education for the larger welfare of mankind. Therefore, research is essentially connected to the process of education. It is an inseparable aspect of education, which makes the process of education worthwhile.
Quality: A virtue that accords expected top-end result, or delivery on the strength of organization, observation, checks and balances, and control. It aims at making the modus- operandi of education and research relevant and result-oriented for the present, and dynamic, exemplary and modifiable for the future, i.e. to make education truly welfaristic in a lager interest as per the demand of time and space. The process of education, evidently, calls for assessment and observation, comparative evaluation, and must deliver on promised objectives; therefore, the quality is one element that cannot be compromised with. It is indispensable for the process of education. It is rightly said that the quality is the means through which an institution ensures that such conditions as enable students to achieve the standards set by it or by another awarding body, are put in place.
Assurance: It is the commitment to accomplish a given task. Making sure that the needful is done timely and rightly. Moreover, assurance consists of responsibility, dedication and reliability as its chief attributes. Hence, assurance is an indivisible aspect of educational process.
Hence, the subject in hand, Quality Assurance in Education and Research is, as a whole an important and significant topic. All the four word incorporated in it –education, research, quality and assurance, eloquently reveal its importance. Now, after getting familiar with meaning and spirit in the root of all of these four words separately as well as their syntax union, the value and worthiness of the subject become crystal clear, and nothing more can be added to enhance clarity and understanding in this regard.
Thanks to its sanguine importance, practical value and central significance that it is being discussed at all levels –local, regional, national and international, particularly so because education system is lacking in values and delivery mechanisms. The level of commitment in the process is much below expectations. People are busy individually as well as collectively in more than one million researches in different subjects of sciences, commerce and arts, in hundreds of thousands of universities and institutions of higher studies or learning [colleges] all over the world. Internationally known organizations such as the British Council, the NAFSA [National Association of Foreign Student Advisor; it is for International Student Exchange and Aid with its headquarter in Washington, USA], the CONAHEC [Consortium for North American Higher Education Collaboration comprising membership of universities and colleges of the US, Mexico and Canada]*, the HEDBIB [Bibliographical Database on Higher Education], and the UNESCO [United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization]** are extending full support to the vast body of research works all over the world. The support is financial as well as in the form of technical guidance. Organizations like the UGC [University Grants Commission]***, the ICSSR [Indian Council of Social Science Research], the ICHR [Indian Council of Historical Research], the ICPR [Indian Council of Philosophical Research], the CSIR [Council of Scientific and Industrial Research], the ICAR [Indian Council of Agricultural Research], the ICMR [Indian Council of Medical Research], the SCHE [State Council of Higher Education], and so many others bodies, both at the central and provincial levels, work to assist, guide and support research works all over the country.
Despite this, there is a lack of quality assurance in education and research both at the national and global level and it is indeed a matter of great concern. Situation is more serious in India for several reasons. The foremost reason for this according to me is the lack of morality, which emerges from the core intention of duty and responsibility. When I talk about this, it covers the responsibilities and duties of all those who are involved directly or indirectly, more or less, or at any of the levels of the process of education.
Education and research, both, demand dedication to duty and a keen sense of responsibility. This is, in fact, the acid test of morality. Indifference to it results in lowering of quality and commitment or assurance in education and research. The indifference is being observed these days particularly on the following lines.
1. Haste and shortcut in most research works leading to pedestrian, unexpected and unusable results;
2. Focus on individual gain in most of the works and worst thing that could be observed in many cases is that research works are completed just to get the thing done in formal manner;
3. Deficiency in developing new methods, which are critically required as per the demand of time and space; and
4. Lack of healthy debates, critical analysis and logical conclusion calling for concrete steps to be taken for a progressive future.
This is the situation in general, i.e., almost in all disciplines. However, it is more serious in subjects related to humanities and social science. Even as this is the reality all over the world in general, India is particularly lagging behind in comparison to many nations of America, Europe and Oceania.
India was a World Guru in distant past. Right from the ancient times, sound thoughts and contemplation, healthy and critical analysis, experiments and discussions have been the part and parcel of Indian tradition pertaining to Shiksha – the education. Intensive and result-oriented research formed the basis of the teaching methodology in India. But, the current scenario is undoubtedly full of disappointment and, as stated already, it makes the situation grim. It calls for serious retrospection and troubleshooting with following three things in mind:
1. To work individually and collectively, both, with commitment at all levels for quality assurance;
2. To fix the responsibility at state and institutional level, both, without compromising with quality in any manner; and
3. To decide certain standard for education and research, both, for institutional level in particular and to motivate students and researchers to work accordingly.
Note: This piece is based on extracts of a speech delivered as the chief guest of the inaugural session of a national seminar organized by the Guru Gobind Singh College of Education [For Women] at Giddarbaha, Punjab [India].
*Formed in 1994 the CONAHEC is promoting academic collaboration among institutions of higher education and research, it has developed in outgoing years successful partnership with the key national umbrella higher education organizations in the NAFTA [North American Free Trade Agreement Region], the ACE [American Council on Education], the AACC [American Association of Community Colleges], the AUCC [Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada], the ACCC [ Association of Canadian Community Colleges] and the ANUIES [Association of National Universities and Institutions of Education Superior] of Mexico.
**Founded on November 4, 1946 and having 195 states at its members at present, the UNESCO is functioning as a laboratory of ideas and as a medium for international co-operation, complementing and giving leadership to know-how for social and economic development through institutions of higher learning, study and research throughout the world.
***Established in 1956, the UGS is the key agency promoting and guiding 567 universities in India as per the information available up to June 2012 including 42 central, 285 state and 112 private universities respectively.
Tuesday, November 12, 2013
Peace [Shanti in Sanskrit] –a word signifying the state of harmony in a holistic perspective, calls for peak of human dynamics and proactive co-operation of all fellow-beings. Bliss, calmness, serenity and tranquility are the words synonymous to it.
Thomas Stearns Eliot [1934-65] –a US born eminent English lyricist, social critic, Nobel laureate  and composer of famous poem, The West Land, wonderfully opines that Shanti is the state to accord understanding that is worth consideration. But, which type of understanding? It is, in one way or the other, the understanding of co-operation. Therefore, the state of peace is the source of origin of mutual understanding, of co-operation, and a clarion call for prosperity of one and all –in the larger interest of humanity. Hence, it is not an ordinary state. Rather, the state of peace is extraordinary. That is why; Shanti occupies pride of place in the Vedic prayers, which is well illustrated in the Shanti Prakaran [peace-perception], as a predominant maxim [Mool-Mantra] calling for peace in every nook and corner of the universe:
“Om Dyau Shanti Rantariksha Gwam
Shanti Prithvi Shanti Rapah
Shanti Roshadhayah Shanti Vanas Patayah
Shanti Vishwed Devah Shanti Brahma
Shanti Shanti Reva Shanti Sa Ma Shanti Redhi
Om Shanti Shanti Shanti Om”
“Unto the Heaven be peace, unto the Sky and the Earth be peace; peace be unto the Water, unto the herbs and trees be Peace; unto all the gods be peace, unto Brahma and unto all be Peace; and may we realize that peace.”
Doubtless, peace is vitally important in life. It is indispensable for creating atmosphere of mutual understanding and harmony for common development. It is, therefore, a crucial link in the chain of life.
Education is a process that continues till the end of life. It is a lifelong process leading a human being to realize and develop virtues already present within his genome, and achieve prosperity in life on the basis of these intrinsic virtues.
Epithets like knowledge, skill and talent, frequently eluded to education, are, in fact, in-born qualities, which remain dormant in man for continuous exploration and enhancement. For the realization and proper development of these qualities direction and guidance are necessary and only a teacher [Guru] can do this. The indispensability and importance of education in life are known to all. It is the education and education only, which accords identity to man –makes him a true human being.
Peace and education must go forward simultaneously. Both of them aim all-round development of human beings. Education brings out what already exists within for the unfolding of personality while the state of peace creates atmosphere and accords certainty to this act. Further, both of them call for proactive co-operation and manage to gather it. Such is the vibe and virtue of peace and education.
It is for this reason that various aspects related peace and education [peace education] are being discussed and analyzed regularly through symposiums and seminars at different levels –national and international, particularly in colleges and universities and at social forums all over the world. Scholars of repute and subject specialist are discussing the way and means to make it an essential part of educational process and about pedagogies to be adopted for the same. In many institutions work has been started. But, a lot has to be done in this regard. The process must go on continuously and in a planned manner.
Although scholars and subject specialists are in agreement for inclusion of peace education in syllabi, they also cede to its urgency, yet they have not been able to suggest a cogent action plan for the same.
In this regard I am of the opinion that the work of imparting peace education should start from the higher secondary level. It is for the simple reason that peer pressure, interpersonal jealousies and competitive rivalries amongst students begin building up at this level of education giving rise to acrimony, disputes and sharp differences of opinion culminating in chaos and disharmony.
Therefore, initiative must be taken from this stage and as first lesson students should be familiarized with life, works and views of leading lights of world peace that brought harmony in society through love, compassion, non-violence and practicing in their own personal lives what they preached to others. Along with this, initiatives should be taken by the community of teachers to train students to settle their differences and resolve disputes by way of arbitration in primary stage itself. In this regard, the following suggestion would be helpful:
1. Realizing the value and significance of peace education, teachers must take it up as their personal responsibility;
2. Keeping practices of peace messengers as nuclei, they should prepare students for self-settling of their disputes, or if necessary, teachers may themselves play role of arbitrator in resolving disputes; and
3. Having the intent of developing the spirit of peace, teacher should convince students that living in harmony with each other and their environment is their social, national and global responsibility.
As the higher secondary level is the most important phase of the entire educational process, it can, therefore, play a vital role in a fundament change in the education system. More than one million higher secondary schools impart education all over the world. In India the number of such schools is more than 1, 20, 000 [one lakh twenty thousand] in which approximately 2, 00, 00, 000 [two cores] students are enrolled.
Further, at higher level of studies, in colleges and universities, there is a need of special pedagogy-based curriculum. Both –theoretical and practical aspects should be the essential part of that curriculum and it should appear as a combination of art and science subjects. In addition, the course curriculum could be prepared as per the demand of space and time of national-regional and global contexts.