Section 4Quality Processes and Quality Systems
4A To determine an understanding of how quality systems have been introduced into schools
BSI QUALITY ASSURANCE
It is important to understand that the process of introducing quality systems into education has been predicated upon a business model. In fact later attempts at quality systems in education institutions have followed the ISO 9000/EN 29000/BS 5750 BSI standard (see Guidance Notes referred to in bibliography).
BSI standards were primarily introduced for industry – why? IN BSI booklet 1, Chris Howarth, Marketing and Sales Director of Howarth’s Switchgear, said the following:-
"Since achieving registration (BSI standard – BZ) the company has noticed considerable benefits, not only from improved customer confidence, but also from the relative ease of opening new markets, where specifiers and purchasers now recognise that Howarth’s approach to design and manufacture has an official seal of quality approval".
In the same booklet Ruth McNeill, Director of Marketing and Shopping Service said that "increasingly our clients are looking for registration amongst their suppliers, which leaves companies without it in a potentially vulnerable position".
Personally I don’t like seeing the language of business being used in education. Business is concerned with increasing percentage profits and people are secondary to the business of making a profit. For me in education people have to come first. Yes we must attempt to improve the standards of education but do we improve education by introducing a profit motivation as the measurement of standard?
Let me examine the concepts seen as important by the business people quoted above. Do they have an application to education? Reluctantly I have to say yes! It would be nice if schools had "customer confidence" from students, parents and society. Now with AWPU monies the need to attract more students would help the school – "opening new markets". If schools "designed" schemes of work and "manufactured" good exam results and recognisable employment skills, then that would be positive. Therefore if there was something where one was able to say such-and-such school had an "approach whose design and manufacture had an official seal of quality approval", that would be a badge that could be advertised as showing value in the school. And then we would have the counterpart that if the schools did not have such a seal they would be disadvantaged in terms of attracting clients – students.
Yes, these concepts can be squeezed into a straitjacket that could be applied to education but to be quite honest I find it perverse. I don’t find that these terms do not apply to my view of self–realisation but they are not the terms I choose to use. How does the BSI quality assurance fit with the processes to quality established in the philosophical investigation? Here are those processes:-
Again reluctantly I cannot say that these processes cannot be conducive to profit-making but I do feel that again we would have to fit them into a BSI straitjacket rather than their being naturally conducive.
But why are people in education interested in BSI? A BSI standard shows that in a business context you have the insurance that these people will not be dishonest, it is a sort of guarantee, a guarantee that manufactured goods will reach a certain standard. Are the students the manufactured goods we want to fit into a straitjacket? I don’t want that but maybe UK education wants it?
THE BSI STANDARDISATION PROCESS
In Booklet 2, "How to Become Registered to BS EN ISO 9000 with BSI Quality Assurance", BSI describes the process companies have to go through to become registered as follows:-
Reluctantly I cannot dispute these processes either, if applied in a proper educational context, but again I ask what has the profit motive got to do with education itself? If you asked how do we educate so that students can improve profits, I would understand, but not that the very process of education is profit-motivated. What is value for money in education is fundamentally why I am concerned about quality where the value of quality is the debate. How much do you pay for quality? How much do you spend to get quality? And then how do you evaluate it? All of these questions require an answer within BSI context but I would claim that they are not answerable in terms of profit and business accountability.
HOW BSI WANTS TO APPLY ITS STANDARDS TO EDUCATION
In booklet 3, "Guidance Notes for the Application of ISO 9000/EN 20000/BS 5750 to Education and Training", BSI put forward a series of approaches to "assist education and training establishments in interpreting the requirements of BS 5750".
"These notes define the output of an educational or training establishment as either the programme, or the value added, or enhancement of competence, knowledge and understanding gained by the person who undergoes the training," [Booklet 3 1.2 p4]. This terminology I find totally distasteful, but if applied appropriately "enhancement of competence, knowledge and understanding" could be a quality outcome. Again the words do not preclude a quality approach but throughout I have a suspicion as to the motivations of business principles in education.
QUALITY IN PUBLIC SERVICES
Before I consider my own education concerns and an overview of the influence of BSI on quality systems in schools I want to consider a document "The Quality Challenge: A TUC report on the Trade Union Response to Quality in Public Services" [TQC}.
Now the purpose of considering this booklet was to consider how the labour counterpart viewed the introduction of Quality in Public Services, this alternative position might throw light on possible inadequacies of the approach.
When reviewing the booklet, as before with the terms used by BSI I came up with an indifferent answer. Already I have accepted that BSI quality could be the quality I have been promoting. When I examine TQC I could also say the same, that the TUC could be viewing the quality challenge in the same context. There is no decisive comparison.
However the TUC comes up with a number of points which indicate that practical considerations militate against the achievement of quality - in the terms I concluded in section 3. Let us consider what was said in the introduction of TQC[p5]:-
"Quality Services do not come cheap. Furthermore they require a high quality well-trained workforce. There is little value in publishing charters setting out the rights of service users unless they are backed by adequate resources management commitment and workforce involvement. As this report makes clear political exhortation cannot produce quality."
They further expanded on this:-
"2. The problem for many unions is that the everyday reality is often adrift from the broad policy objectives. Workers who are underpaid, undervalued, overworked and alienated from the organisation are unlikely to respond to the rhetoric of "commitment culture" and "quality first" - whether it comes from the management or the unions.
3. The solution lies partly in better pay and conditions, better training, appropriate staffing and appreciation for the job done. These are all longstanding union demands. However, if service quality is to be significantly improved on a sustainable basis, it also requires the development of new and innovative alliances between unions and user groups. The participation and empowerment feature of the drive for quality is distinctive because it is often the management themselves who espouse it loudest. [p20]"
However the introduction is also obfuscated by the introduction of other issues, and it could be debated whether these issues are related. "The TUC rejects the approach taken by Government Ministers in deliberately confusing measurement of performance with questions of pay. In a statement to the House of Commons (TUC report was written in 1992), the Chancellor of the Exchequer said that performance related pay in the public sector must be "beneficial to the citizen, fair to the employee and linked to the delivery of high quality public services" [p17]. It could be argued that this is what the TUC are looking for - increased pay for increased quality. However I think the TUC concerns are that quality is being used as a euphemism for productivity and that what business is doing is using quality as a vehicle to get something they are not paying for. In the end how can you produce quality in a situation where the two important elements, management and labour, are adversarial and have no trust of each other?
I also question whether they are actually concerned with quality because "when it comes to measurement the emphasis is more often on inputs and, for ease of use, on quantitative performance rather than qualitative indicators" [p16].
TQC then points to examples of good practice when they say that "successful private companies have approached the challenge differently. In the German and Japanese companies most closely associated with quality management, there is recognition of the need to win the confidence and commitment of the workforce to programmes of organisational and cultural change. In no sense can it be regarded as good practice to increase demands on staff at the same time as threatening the security and status of their employment [p12]". I take with a pinch of salt that Germany and Japan are actually achieving the quality I have propounded, but if they are adopting these practices and they are producing an element of qualitative success then it should be noted. Quoting Germany and Japan could just be a political tactic for the TUC however.
In the first quote - the introduction - of this TQC, they said that "political exhortation cannot produce quality" [p5]. Is the government's introduction of the quality issue on the agenda just a political ploy? "The TUC came across at least one example where the pressure was to scale down quality standards below recognised good practice to levels that could be delivered within the available resources. This may be more consistent than the practice of publishing performance indicators that are known to be unachievable and which, therefore, quickly become meaningless [p8]". If this is the case then standards are being lowered whilst politically they are supposedly being raised - a mere political ruse.
Then one must question whether quality is the real objective:-
"It is striking that, alongside such moderate initiatives on the quality front, the Government has pursued an ambitious programme of legislation ostensibly to increase the efficiency and economy of public services. Core objectives have been to open up the public service to competition either through privatisation, deregulation, or the creation of internal markets; promotion of a contract culture; rationalisation of employment and the erosion of national terms and conditions; and the introduction of performance indicators. It can be no surprise that most of these measures have been interpreted as an attack on public service and public servants [p9]". Again when you consider the issue of trust in the partnership between management and labour needed to produce quality, you don't even reach first base with these measures.
"With the publication of the Citizen's Charter the pendulum has swung the other way." This is swinging away from the position where "those who provided" the services "believed they knew either what the public wanted or what the public needed". "All the emphasis now is on the individual service user as a customer in the market. No difference is perceived between the user of public services and the customer who buys goods and services from the private sector. Neither model is wholly appropriate [p12]." In other words the pendulum has swung too far the other way. Are children the most appropriate people to judge whether a teacher is competent? Is business the most appropriate arbitrator on the caring aspect of a school curriculum?
Examining this TUC report indicates that quality is high on the political agenda but the TUC believes that quality initiatives have not been adequately funded. Further the target of quality has been obfuscated by other contemporaneous initiatives such as PRP, whilst at the same time dubious measures as to what constitutes qualitative success have been introduced.
In terms of the objective when considering this report, which was to see whether these quality initiatives compared well with those I propounded, I am unable to come to any definite conclusions; I would have been surprised if I could given that they were raised in a political arena. There certainly is the political rhetoric that could encourage quality but is that rhetoric backed up by the necessary finance? The TUC certainly think not!
Now that I have examined the process of introducing quality into education (ie BSI quality Assurance), and the TUC response to it, I want to make a few educational observations. Firstly I am concerned about the notion of a student as a customer because there is one essential customer quantity that does not apply to students and that is financial control. Every business person knows that if they do not provide a service they risk losing income because the customer can always take their business elsewhere. Despite the tinkerings of the education act in terms of Local Management of Schools and Local Financial Management, parents do not perceive that they are purchasing a place at school. In fact many state school teachers wished that parents did feel they had such control. In the private sector if a student fails the parents relate that failure directly to the money they spend, and as such exert pressure on their children to perform. In the state sector parents do not feel that financial connection, nor do they exercise the necessary pressure on their children. In practice I am sure that if parents in the state sector were exercising direct financial control they would actually do something about the appalling behaviour of their children. The student as a customer is not appropriate in the educational model.
Further the guidance notes implicitly views the customer as being concerned about doing well and that it is only the education programme that prevents the customer from achieving. Although I accept that viewpoint from a broad overview of the educational process, I cannot accept that at any particular stage during the actual practical education process itself is the student well motivated. The Guidance Notes particularly pay emphasis on the programme. In many ways this has to be because the variables that can be changed by the professionals concerned are connected to the programme, but that programme cannot be evaluated objectively because of the attitudes of the customers – the students.
Next I am concerned about the need for documentation. In booklet 3 4.10.4 p12, the Guidance Notes states that "there should be documentary evidence of completion of all assessments and evaluations of pupils/students/trainees and programmes". I object to this on two levels. Firstly I don’t feel that you can completely define in documentation all the levels of enhancement that is part of the education process. Many of these enhancements are disparate and diverse. Let me answer this by posing a question – "Can you list all the benefits you gained from the education system?" If you can’t do it for yourself, how can you expect a teacher to be able to do it when they are teaching so many students?
The document itself must be limited so that very limitation starts to define the process of education itself , and this also concerns me.
And then when do the teachers have the time to complete all these additional records??
The more I consider the BSI standardisation process the more I see what I consider has been negative in the changes in education since 1985.
To determine the relationship between the quality education I established and the quality systems that have been introduced
In order to consider this relationship I wish to examine one particular process of quality systems, and that is TQM, Total Quality Management. In this brief consideration of TQM I shall consider the work done by Myron Tribus as presented in "Developing Quality Systems in Education edited by Doherty. In no way is this exhaustive but it is an attempt to consider some of the issues in the relationship between education's quality systems and those I have developed above in section 3. The main reason I have considered Tribus' work is because he developed a theoretical basis in Ch 5 of Doherty and then considered a practical example in Ch 16.
Let us consider what TQM is. A brief survey of the literature makes me want to place TQM in the category of the management panacea. Earlier in my M Ed (see professional biography) I examined concepts such as reflection-in-action and change agentry. Although these were important ideas the requirements they placed on the teachers concerned were almost those of Superman. If the teachers adopted all the criteria related to those concepts there would have been no need for the concepts in the first place. In many ways I see TQM as the same, if management and teachers had the mindset appropriate to TQM there would be no need for the system in the first place.
Holloway stated that "any model of TQM can usually be expected to involve the following common core:-
(quoted from Dotchin and Oakland 1992; 141) [Doherty p111]
Tribus then further developed 7 ways as to "what distinguishes quality management from conventional management" in education:-
He then developed 7 themes of a holistic management strategy:-
and he used a schema to stress the holistic importance of incorporating all 7 themes [Doherty p86]. Then the product orientation of TQM led Tribus to give education the following goals:-
And then he concluded on [Doherty p98] that the "objective is to bring about a state in which all elements of the school are working together in common purpose".
Now my purpose in the above presentation concerning Tribus' work was to demonstrate the utopian, all-encompassing aspects of his pre-requisites for TQM, and I haven't attempted to consider here any of his developmental arguments that can be found in Ch 5 of Doherty p83. I am sure if I had quoted my hero, Pirsig, in such a fashion it would also appear utopian.
But let's be honest. There would be no need for any form of discussion if the above themes and objectives were in any way practically carried out. But to be fair also, this chapter was a theoretical presentation, so the proof of the pudding is in the practice of Ch 16 - let that be the judge.
In a brief consideration of TQM I have developed a premise that TQM is a management panacea. As a panacea it would of course produce the quality that panaceas always heal, and therefore the relationship between the theory of TQM and the processes to quality developed in section 3 can be connected. However the educational practice is the judge. Just finally there is an interesting section on "The Use of Internal Motivators rather than External Motivators". Here I can see a strong parallel with Pirsig's refusal to grade. "Internal motivators are called into play when a learner understands what it means to do something very well, has had a hand in setting the rules whereby an excellent job is to be recognised, knows that there is someone who shares the joy of knowing the job was well done and is taught to self-assess the work as it is on-going" [Doherty p100]. Here I would hope that Tribus is seeing the internal motivators as being the joy of learning although there are indications that he is moving away from the purity of learning for learning's sake by tactics such as the "setting of rules" etc. It will be interesting to see whether, in the practical example, students demonstrated learning for learning's sake, internal motivators.
TQM IN PRACTICE
To be perfe4ctly honest, after reading the theory chapter and taking a brief overview I thought that it would be a chapter containing a few examples to justify a point. However if the chapter is a true reflection of the practice at the school, I would say that the education at the school contains quality practice that would fit quality as presented earlier in this Study Module. The reason I say this is that there was a clear quality process happening as presented.
The school was on a small island off the coast of Alaska with a mainly rural catchment. The headmaster, described as an idealist, said that the school's job was "to provide value-added education, not to select a few who don't really need us" [Doherty p274]. Since the community was rural and that Alaska was a Pacific Rim Country, "one of his major objectives was to turn these students into entrepreneurs who would go back to their villages and make a difference" [Doherty p274]. To this effect the students marketed some smoked salmon. The students "developed an attractive package that would fit into small Japanese refrigerators", they market-researched the taste and texture of the product on local Japanese. They were so successful that they received orders they couldn’t comply with, and there was an interesting follow-on dispute because a commercial company, who took over the contract, did not have the same quality standards.
One particular teacher decided at the beginning of term to spend a great deal of time questioning why the students were at school. By focussing on this probing for a significant period of time, he lost syllabus time and gained motivation, and the indications were that these results were positive.
He described a writing class and I quote in full.
"I inspected a few hyper-cards prepared by students on the theme 'How to write a perfect five-paragraph essay'. In this essay they discussed how to choose an appropriate title, how to write an introductory paragraph, how to structure a logical argument, how to develop conclusions and how to avoid cliches. Having, themselves, written such a learning instrument, they were equipped to apply the criteria themselves.
"There are no grades, no 'incompletes', no 'Fs'. The task is not complete until the work is perfect. The students have defined perfection for themselves and, therefore, know how to aim for it. (Create joy in work)" [Doherty p280]. This would seem to me to be quality-in-action based on intrinsic motivators.
In the chapter there are other examples of good practice such as the ropes lesson, but there are not sufficient examples to provide quantitative scientific evidence that TQM works.
They involved the students in the development of the school's mission statement [p285], and the students worked on a revision of Deming's 14 points for TQM [p286-7]. Undoubtedly all of these point to a whole school approach to quality education.
Despite my above-described concerns about the TQM panacea this school points the way to the need to consider adopting TQM practices in education. To develop consideration of this it would be necessary to examine Deming's work, examples of TQM practice in industry, and further examples in education, all of which is beyond the scope of this piece of work.
In conclusion, although idealistic, TQM might have a place in education. Clearly it was not introduced along the BSI profit-oriented lines described above. But also we need to consider the school population in an isolated rural community. I would hazard a guess that there were not the demanding parents for academic success that I have met. But the school did have academic success, but this led to a problem. "Students who are now in college report back that they are disappointed to find that the environments into which they have gone are not 'learning environments'." The author was asked "by several students to advise them where they could go to continue their studies of quality and be in a quality environment" [Doherty p282].
"The faculty, the students and the administration all agree that evaluation is destructive to the learning process" [Doherty p282]. Where does this leave the introduction of quality into the existing exam-orientated state system?
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