versión impresa ISSN 1668-8708
Vis. futuro vol.11 no.1 Miguel Lanus ene./jun. 2009
The Complexity of Education Quality in the Province of Misiones
Universidad Nacional de Misiones -
Facultad de Ciencias Económicas -
Ruta Nacional Nº 12 - 7 km ½ - C.P: 3304 -
Miguel Lanús - Misiones - Argentina
E- mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Quality is a subject that must be considered as a guarantee exigency in the formal education system, as much in the processes as in the final results. The complexity of education quality has to do with the quality of life of all the society, considering that it is a subject that goes beyond the limits of the school, due to the multiple interactions of the different actors. It is a task that implies responsibility and society's commitment as a whole in favor of growth and social and economy development. The concept of quality at different times has determined that at present it is applied to the education environment, taking as reference the criteria and principles established in the modern theories from the organizations, to consider the efficiency of different products and services. Management style is key in a quality organization, an open and shared leadership, with a vision put not only in the demands of the moment, but in the injunctions of the national and world-wide economy, as a factor of development of the nations. The best marketing of the product is the satisfaction of the users.
KEY WORDS: Quality; Complexity; Management; Leadership.
Quality is a demand in the present world in all the organizations which produce and offer services as goods that contribute to the general development of society, leaving off being a mere theoretical concept to define concrete styles of improvement proposals, as much in the processes as in the results, setting off from innovating actions.
In the enterprise world quality refers to basically to the relationship: product-client; the product must be attractive and satisfactory, in such a way that it responds to the client's demands; the relationship cost-product; which is accessible to the economy of the consumer, without neglecting the quality; in addition it implies to take as added value the innovating proposals and initiatives that comply with a code of ethics and a vision of sustainable development.
But in the services world, more concretely in education, quality has a very different meaning. In a negative way, education quality could be defined as something opposite to school failure. The formal education system, which feels responsible of the education quality, defends a concept of administrative and structural quality character, based on its human resources, in new structures and functions, a greater autonomy of the center on one hand, and a stricter an external control on the other hand, oriented towards the optimization of the final results.
This paper has as its objective: to analyze the education reality of the Province of Misiones; to contribute concrete elements to improve the quality of education services with the adaptation of quality management models similar to the same norms of an enterprise organization.
The development of the subject presents three parts: the first includes an analysis of the quality concept; in the second one a study is carried out, of the education reality of the Province of Misiones, from a critical point of view, of quality of the education services, as much in the processes as in the results; and in the third, one proposes a new conception of quality management, which favors the transformation of the private management schools.
In the analysis of the education reality, the methodology of direct observation in different educational establishments of the Province of Misiones has been applied, on subjects related to school infrastructure, daily labor, movement of annual matriculated students and a study of complete cohort of the different schooling levels. This information arises from interviews and in some places, of the application of surveys to different education actors which were taken as references for the sampling. These data have been collated with successfully obtained information of the institutions that regulate the management of the private schools (Province Service of Private Education of the Province of Misiones and Ministry of Education). Also a comparative analysis of the results has been made of the formal education system of the Province of Misiones and its relationship with the national average, confronting statistical data in which the following indicators have been considered: scholarization rate, efficient promotion, repetition and school desertion.
I. Evolution of Quality Concept
The quality concept has had a progressive evolution as from the XX century. From a concept of the excellence of the technical specifications of products, one has advanced towards the satisfaction of the clients, with respect to consumption goods and services. The first initiatives are attributed to the enterprise, Western Electric of the United States that, in the 20s, began to apply quality control techniques. Later in 1946 the first institution dedicated to the promotion of quality control is created:American Society for Quality Control.
After World War II, the Japanese entrepreneurs are interested in the American methods of quality with the eagerness to apply them in the reconstruction of Japan. As a result of the Japanese research the quality principles are considered: as "a continuous improvement process, the workers must imply themselves in the production processes organizing themselves in quality circles." [Álvarez, M., 1998, p. 11] (1)
In the 70s and 80s the concept quality becomes popular in the world-wide markets with the priority that imposes the idea of the clients satisfaction and in the generalized conduct of the clients who put quality above price.
The re-engineering concept applied to the enterprise world in its organizational structure prevails from the quality point of view. There also appears in the dynamics of quality management the concept of benchmarking, as the necessity to look for excellent enterprise models that serve as references.
As follows one presents a picture that exposes with greater clarity the changes that the term quality has undergone throughout its historical evolution:
Table 1: Historical evolution of quality concept
Source: Own elaboration on the evolution of the quality concept
The evolution of the concept allows understanding the necessity, to offer a greater quality of the product or service which is provided to the client and really to society. Quality has not become solely one of the essential requirements of the product, but which at present is a key strategic factor, on which depend most of the organizations, not only to hold their position in the market but even to assure their survival. Quality is a relative and dynamic process; it is always possible to try for more and better results. Quality management supposes to obtain the objectives that the organization sets out for, facilitating necessary means for it and that such are able to satisfy the expectations of the users.
Within the scope of education it is necessary that all the involved actors redouble the efforts for the optimal profit of the desired results, with certainty and creativity, because the results in education are proven in the long term.
The understanding of quality varies according to different actors. But being a process it is present in all aspects, involves all, being that it is a communitarian work, which has to do with human beings, that requires competent teams in each phase and each area of the task.
In order to obtain the quality it is required to understand the reach and the variations of the education process in order of the efficient paradigms in every historical moment of society. In the world of education quality implies:
That the planning and design of the education process be as important as the education result, since the subject of education is the human being himself.
That the management of the school unit be efficient in the interaction, taking the management towards quality results.
That the interpersonal reports must be fluid, favoring the multi directional communication, be it formal as informal, to obtain in an efficient way the fulfillment of the proposed objectives.
In all this dynamics there is a fundamental process that is the one of professional perfectionism. In an education organization it is necessary that all participate in the permanent processes of formation. However better one knows how he must do his work, one assures better conditions for reaching the wished results. This is feasible to obtain with incentives that stimulate the performances. In the education organization it is possible to speak of quality when one obtains:
Integral development of the student - in the personnel, civilian and communitarian partner.
Acquisition of habits, scientific knowledge and work techniques.
Training to assume professional activities with efficiency.
Preparation to participate responsibly in the social and communitarian life.
Teachers understand education quality from a labor point of view: in the administrative offer, the participation in the ambient interests and the creation of spaces of comfort for its performance, physical, professional growth, organizational quality, institutional time to review the professional practices, worthy wages, economy incentives and autonomy in the development of its activity.
From academic point of view, quality depends on the level of performance reached by the students, their promotion towards the immediate superior levels, aptitudes for a future labor insertion, positive coexistence attitudes with his peers and civic formation according to age.
The civil tutors consider as quality (apart from that which is academic) the treatment they receive from the institution, the institutional identification, motivation and esteem by the curricular and extracurricular activities, order and control in discipline, hygiene and safety of the facilities, leisure and recreation activities that favor the interest of the pupils, etc.
In synthesis, the quality concept - considered from the point of view of the different actors is enormously variable, subjective and difficult to quantify, but it demands a permanent attention to obtain the satisfaction of the education protagonists.
II Education reality in the Province of Misiones.
In order to carry out the analysis of the education reality in the scope of private management in the Province of Misiones, indicators of greater relevance have been selected, in all the formal education system, such as: schooling rate, efficient promotion rate, inter-annual abandonment rate, student repeater rate, state of school infrastructure and duration of school day.
The Province of Misiones has 92.3 % in the primary sector and 34% in high school level, being one of the provinces with the lowest schooling at this level. This reality should lead to the revision of the present high school education system, to assure the permanence of the young people and a greater index of graduates with pre professional qualification that respond to the labor demands of the environment.
Table 2: Efficient promotion rate - common education
Source: Ministry of Education, Science and Technology of the Nation.
National Direction of Research and Evaluation of Education Quality. Annual Survey 2004-2005
The Province of Misiones is below the national average of efficient promotion in the first cycles. This difference is very clear among schools located in the urban area and the rural one, where one finds an area of adult population without complete primary studies, influences of the different ethnic groups that have mother tongues different from the national one, economy deficiencies that derive in socio cultural deficiencies that are the result of family lack of support in the education. But in the Polymodal level we find ourselves with an efficient promotion above the national average. This improvement of performance can be attributed to the more independent management, of private schools with an education proposal of integral formation.
Inter-annual abandonment Rate - common education
As to the rate of inter-annual abandonment, the Province of Misiones is above the national average in the first cycles, as it is possible to observe in the following table. These indices lower considerably in the Polymodal level.
Table 3:Inter-annual abandonment rate - common education
Source: Ministry of Education, Science and Technology of the Nation.
National Direction of Research and Evaluation of Education Quality. Annual Survey 2004 - 2005
As appraised in table 2 the greater indices of abandonment register in 5th Course of EGB 2, 9th Course of EGB 3 and in the last year of High School. This situation indicates a very precise reality, in the national and province areas: the school does not cover the students expectations as to time invested in school permanence and the acquired learning. In the rural areas of the Province of Misiones, children of 10 or 11 years of age, are more useful in the tasks on the small farms, as cheap manual labor, than seated at a school bench. The adolescents who attend high school do not find motivation to study, alleging that education which they receive does not qualify them to evolve in their first job. Therefore the education system must be re-framed as to where it orients the changes to assure not only greater retention time in the schools, but also a better and correct formation, of better quality in the integral education offered, according to the necessities of each zone and each social group. It is important to highlight the education services quality offered by the EFAS-Schools for Agricultural Families and, lately, the orientations in Production of Goods and Services offered by the private management technical schools.
Table 4: Repeater Rate - Common Education
Source: Ministry of Education, Science and Technology of the Nation.
National Direction of Research and Evaluation of Education Quality. Annual Survey 2004 - 2005. www. Diniece.gov.ar
The repeater phenomenon increases in 4th Year of EGB-2, 8th Year of EGB-3 and 1st of the Polymodal, in coincidence with the very exigencies of this stage of studies as far as methods, habits and study techniques which the students must handle to obtain a satisfactory performance. In addition this stage also agrees with changes in the psychoevolutive period in which the child finds himself, puberty or adolescent, which act as determining factors on the concentration capacity and motivation for study, reason why it is very important to appeal to strategies of education with tutorial support, be it at school or family level to avoid the phenomenon of school leaving with threats of school abandonment.
Another indicator that must be considered when the education services quality is defined is the capacity of physical infrastructure and school equipment. During these last years the Province of Misiones has had very important investments in the public sector as far as to school infrastructure. It is due to the different projects financed by international institutions such as the I.A.D.B., WBG, etc. Also the resettlement of the needy sectors in the city of Posadas, (TN Capital of the Province of Misiones) by the Binational Organization Yacyretá, has generated the expansion of the population belt, with the founding of new districts and the construction of schools, with building structures and modern didactic and technological equipment. As to the private sector there have been several new ones during these last years, specially in the high school level, the Agricultural Families Schools and in the institutions of Tertiary Level, oriented towards the formation of Technicians in diverse disciplines and modalities.
Beyond the fact that the private schools have (in their great majority) good buildings, one observes the necessity to permanently adapt the technological equipment with the necessary materials in computer science, sciences, laboratories, workshops, libraries, and spaces adapted for the development of the practical classes etc.
The Federal Education Law as the new National Education Law proposes 180 days of classes, which means 900 hours per year of classes of a simple school day; but really, the efficient delivery of classes does not reach this goal. This is due to several reasons: national celebrations, days off, strikes, high index of absenteeism in the education sector. For that reason, the Province of Misiones hardly reaches an average of 160 days of efficient classes in the year, being below the international standards. Although the real time of activity with the student is a considerable indicator of education and real time learning, the analysis must be centered in the quality of the processes developed in that time, as a factor that directly affects the quality of the education results.
In the national evaluation of education quality, Misiones has found itself, in most cases, below the national average. In the same evaluations, nevertheless, it has been observed that schools of private management have obtained better results than schools of public management.
At general opinion level the families who send their children to private schools, consider that in these they find a better atmosphere for study, greater demand in the fulfillment of the tasks, to which they add another value such as order, discipline, restraint to the socio-affective problems, planning and formation, extracurricular activities, and the permanent support of school tutors and families. Another of the factors is the impression marked by the organization owner, responsible for the management of its schools, with a proposal oriented towards integral education quality that is reviewed and is readjusted permanently. These have greater autonomy to organize, coordinate and manage human and material resources. This process will have to hold fast even more so to continue advancing towards total quality.
Quality improvement as a first measure will be very important: the revision of the school annual calendar, days off and holidays; revision and update of the teachers present regime of leave and absenteeism; as also the reincorporation system for students who have lost their status of normal students, being that the real and efficient fulfillment of the school year, is a key matter to obtain learning quality. In addition the assigned number of class hours of some basic curricular spaces should be increased based on the necessities of the zone, the level and academic mode.
In spite of the profits that are obtained, the quality of the education continues being one of the main challenges facing schools of private management, in the Province of Misiones. Within this framework the education-learning process is important and the strategies used by all the education actors to revert the results, and to assure in this way, the progressive overcoming of difficulties.
III. Towards a new style of Quality Management
The adaptation of the quality management models, to the world of education services is a necessity, because in the modern world, education is considered among the most indispensable services to which all people must have access. Thus, the education offer, more and more is governed by the same norms of an enterprise organization.
When one speaks of quality it is important to adequate the vocabulary of the quality models, sometimes of mercantile character by its enterprise origin, to the very culture of the schools, be they private or public. This effort has been made by authors such as Ibarzábal (1995), Franklim (1993), Drummond (1995), mainly when talking about service enterprises, among which is education. In modern organization theory, there exist principles that justify the application of a certain model of total quality, which can also be incorporated to the education area, as it is detailed as follows:
Education, a service enterprise: "in the service enterprises, every citizen becomes the service receptor of what is considered basic, because it affects proclaimed fundamental rights in all the democratic constitutions, which are inspired by the declaration of Human rights. These rights refer to life (health), freedom (justice), the overcoming and personal accomplishment (education). Three aspects differentiate radically this type of enterprises from enterprise practices of mercantile character." [Álvarez, M., 1998, p. 35] (2) The particular characteristics of this service generate a different relation with the user, in the sense that it has a social tint.
Client, consumer and user/benefit:The receptor of the education service is a client or a user, when there exist a direct or indirect payment of the services, which gives him the right to demand quality.
Internal and external client: The concept of efficient administration, considers the workers as internal clients of the enterprise, opposite to consumers who are external clients. In the case of education, the educators would be internal clients that use the resources offered by the institution to do its work, such as technology, permanent formation, budgets etc. Whereas the students and their tutors, would be the external clients as users or beneficiaries of the education service.
Concept of the product-process: Unlike the production of goods enterprises that operate with raw material different from the final product, in the education service the production process is atypical as far as to the participation and the protagonism of the raw material which is the student, who takes an active part in the education process until becoming its final product.
Results Concept: Within the enterprise culture the results are easily quantifiable. But as far as the education services, the concept results takes another dimension. The presentation of five important aspects could facilitate our understanding, in which the center must emphasize at the time of evaluating and presenting results, although is be from a qualitative perspective:
Financial results of the state of accounts of the center that define their economic situation.
Academic results, that make reference to the success or school failure.
Results of the services: facilities, cleaning, equipment etc.
Results of the organization: order, efficient work environment, efficient meetings, processes management, pursuit and supervision of agreements, etc.
Results of the perception of the interface or the interaction center-client: facilitate access to the head's office and to teachers, courtesy in treatment, communication, credibility, safety, professional competence etc.
Concept of impact on society: In the industrial enterprises, the impact concept is related to social responsibility, fulfillment of the norms in use, environmental preservation etc. However in the service enterprises, such as education, it is about the social incidence that the institution has on the community and the cultural exchange that it establishes with his surroundings.
Policy and strategy Concept: In the production enterprise the policy and strategy are marked from the perspective of the client's satisfaction. However, in the education organizations, the policy and strategy are defined, based on social and political priorities determined by the governments.
Efficient schools and quality management models
With the passing of time the school has also adapted the total quality model and through the years it has experienced a movement from the traditional schools towards efficient or excellence ones. Alvarez (1998) began the study of the efficient schools at the end of the Seventies at the same time in the U.S.A., Canada, Australia and England. There were also researches by Purkey and Smith in 1983. On the research carried out in the schools of the United States they discovered administrative indicators and organizational constants in all its education system, which marked the quality model of school management with the presence of variables that determine the fluctuation between one institution and another.
Organizative and structural variables
Clear and visible pedagogical leadership: it orients, provides resources, monitors and evaluates the development of curricula.
Favorable climate for the learning.
High expectations, converted into recognition and valuation of the success, as much on behalf of the students as on behalf of the educators.
Autonomy in personnel management and curricular design.
Continuous formation of the educators in new technologies and methodologies.
Maximum dedication to learning time.
Instruction improvement as school priority.
Team work as an efficient organization instrument.
Stability of teaching staff and good atmosphere of interpersonal relationship
Vision: Future perspective and participative planning by means of projects.
Implication of all the actors in a common project.
Objectives: specific, clear and assumed by all.
Academic results: Follow up, evaluation and permanent supervision.
Team work and participation of all personnel, mainly in the definition and development of institutional education project.
Quality in the Organization for the Cooperation and Economy Development (the OECD)
The OECD considers key areas to be taken into account in the attainment of efficient schools:
Curricula: Planning, application and evaluation.
Teachers' vital role: its preparation and motivation.
School organization: articulation between levels, school size, and student/teacher ratio, head's office and management.
Results and evaluation.
Also the OECD presents a set of characteristics to be taken into account when one speaks of a quality school:
Commitment with norms and clear objectives commonly defined.
Planning and a participation climate in decision making.
Positive and clear direction, aiming at permanent improvement.
Personnel stability, which generates security, order and commitment.
Generation of strategies for the continuity of personnel development.
Elaboration of planned and carefully coordinated student centered curricula.
Parents' implication with constant support.
Recognition and adhesion of values belonging to the school.
Maximum advantage of learning time.
Active and substantial support of the responsible education authority.
Evaluation of processes and results: internal and external.
Difference between the movement of efficient schools and the quality model
Facing the dynamic sense of total Quality Management, the efficient schools give more importance to the offer, based on their high level of academic success; however in the quality model, the strategies are based on systems of internal self-evaluation that detect the strong points and the areas of improvement based on their own vision and the mission of the center.
Kind of leadership: The efficient schools movement defines a kind of strong leadership of personal and hierarchic style. However, the quality management model gives importance to a horizontal leadership. They try to convert each responsible person into a leader, manager of its process and the team implied in it.
The process - product relationship: The movements of efficient schools give enormous importance to academic results as unquestionable objectives of their efficiency. The quality management models, give the same importance almost to the results as to the processes; even for many authors the results depend on the processes. The quality management models differ by five kinds of results: financial, academic, organizational, of services and the inter phase.
Perspective change in education
Society changes in a vertiginous way, influenced by social mass media and new technologies. The present education system will have to respond to the social, enormously competitive system, based on some few winners with certain stereotypes of intellectual capacities, and a great amount of losers excluded from the system. There are capacities and talents which are not considered, valued nor evaluated in our school system. With the quality schools, one tries to obtain a different school, not based on competitiveness and payment for merit, but in collaboration, team work and the participation of all.
A different school, a new professor
Demming, the father of total quality management, does not accept any education practice that destroys the cooperation between students or professors, generating excluding dynamics between winners and losers, but places the quality principle on collaboration and team work.
A quality school must be a school that is able to value diversity and that allows the integration and the overcoming of its students deficiencies. The new concept which we understand as school or classroom should become a space of almost personal relationship between the student, the new technologies and the figure of the inductive professor, who has to take over the function to be the facilitator or inducer that causes the total development of the abilities and capacities of his-her students. A quality school implies innovation and changes, minimum in three levels:
In the school administration which approaches itself to the interests of the citizens.
To include in the professional formation of the educators, psycho pedagogical elements and also the pupils growth and learning processes. This will be a fundamental change in their orientation and preparation towards university.
To generate a different vision in educators' profile, that being university professors will fulfill the roll of facilitators and inducers.
The contributions of quality models in favor of education centers
To consider the processes as key elements of learning and quality.
The fundamental principle of collaboration and team work.
A methodology that is based on self evaluation.
A strategy for solution of difficulties, based on the improvement teams.
A shared leadership which facilitates the change.
A participation philosophy centered on attainment of results.
A conception of the service enterprise centered on clients' satisfaction.
A motivation strategy as a setting off point for development and growth.
To speak of quality is in itself a complex matter, due to the variety of meanings that arose on the matter as a result of the research carried out by researchers; but in all the reviewed papers, so as to have a theoretical reference frame, it is observed that these ones are oriented to define and to delimit the quantitative and qualitative performance of the productive processes of the enterprises, according with the client's demand. This same consideration is applicable to other organizations which offer services such as health, safety, hygiene and education.
In all these environments, quality appears associated to the management model, in the form of leadership, commitment and participation of all the actors which expect a final product with acceptance guarantees for internal clients as well as external ones.
Quality is not only an attribute looked for in consumption products that try to satisfy the client's expectations, but that, at present, is an exigency to do with the social responsibility of the organizations which offer their services to the community, hoping that the impact be the client's satisfaction.
In the education environment quality is appraised in the school organization management models which include all the sectors (organizational, administrative, pedagogical, financial, socio-communitarian), for which one requires: clear and precise objectives, known and shared by all the direct and indirect actors; leadership shared on behalf of the education managers; design of an institutional education project that includes an open curricula, that is reviewed and readjusted according to the resulting demands of improvement of a monitoring and permanent evaluation system, internal as external, to incorporate the culture of self-evaluation as a self-criticism of the process carried out by each one of the actors of the school system. Education quality is not obtained only through control, but which is designed, preventively and continuously structured. It is an integral process that includes all the organization and the user. It is not improvised, is a planned work of constant growth oriented towards the competitive advantage.
From this study on education quality within the scope of private management schools of the Province of Misiones, one highlights the necessity to continue strengthening ways and innovating proposals, which respond to the present demands. Facing the reality of an incipient diversified agro-industrial development process, the province faces the lack of qualified manual labor, a high index of sub occupation and unemployment, and the effects of the generalized economy crisis, that is the reason why it is required to advance in projects of permanent improvement, in order to guarantee the expectations of the families who decide, for their children's education, on private management schools. In order to satisfy this demand it is necessary that the private management schools be transformed into quality models, similar to enterprise organizations, with strategies that are based on self-evaluation systems which detect the strong points and the improvement areas based on their own vision and the mission of the center.
The treated subject is not completed by the present paper, therefore the conclusion which is possible to be reached, is partial. The school is an organization which is in permanent process of learning and adaptation to society's demands. Processes quality and results depend on the capacity of the school in responding to the demands of the world of knowledge and work, in an efficient way within the context of national and world-wide economy, with a medium and long term development vision.
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