Re-examining concepts and indicators of quality education

napDear Loopers,

A very interesting exchange of notes and thoughts on assessing learning has “resurged” in the Loop. This is very good pedagogical issue to ponder on.  When we assess  measure the quality of education, just what do we mean? Which education, in the first place, should we measure? What should we measure and why? Let me contribute  some earlier thoughts on the long-run debate on the meaning of “quality” which I penned in the early 90’s under socio-economic development backdrop.  I thought this will open a more spirited conversation not just on educational assessment but will bring us back to the fundamental question of teaching and learning. Pagtiisan nyo na lang ang haba. Happy reading.

Napoleon B. Imperial

Lifelong Learning and Human Development:  Towards a Re-examination
of the Concepts and  Indicators of Quality Education

by

NAPOLEON  B.  IMPERIAL
Social Development Staff
National Economic and  Development Authority


eduThe main purpose of this paper is two-fold, one is to help establish a paradigm for analysing lifelong learning through a critical  analysis of its socio-educational foundations and  the other is to raise some possibilities as regards methodologies and measurement of the impacts and outcomes of quality education under that paradigm.

The Learning Society, “Open Learning” and Lifelong Learning

For purposes of policy, the concept of lifelong learning in this paper is built around the intertwined and broad meanings of “learning society” and the concept of “open learning.” The term  “learning society” is essentially viewed as a social goal that  underpinned many countries’ efforts in universalizing the provision of basic education to all who will need and benefit from it.   This is the same   long-term vision in embodied in the Education for All (EFA) Philippine Plan of Action (PPA): 1991-2000 in the area of continuing education for development (CED) which are in turn based on the World Declaration of Education for All.  The PPA envisions: “the development of a learning society where people continue to learn on their own to the end that they can improve their quality of life and participate in national development efforts.”  Thus,  while EFA is   concerned with basic learning needs and basic learning tools,  the PPA’s  CED component, nevertheless, also calls for a reconfigured national learning systems called alternative learning systems (ALS) that encompass other channels and higher levels of learning, both informal and nonformal, running parallel with the formal system.

The envisioned scheme basically follows the idea of an open‑access learning system propounded by Coombs, Prosser and Ahmed in l973.  The system of lifelong learning provides for a combination of flexible,  and diversified but integrated range of formal, nonformal and informal learning options which  mutually reinforce  each other.  Choice of   learning modes is left open.  In  this educational set‑up,  literacy and post‑literacy education and higher levels of skills/knowledge may be delivered by any capable governmental and non‑governmental agency or institution, individuals (like parents and peers) or informal groups and associations.  Under this set-up, therefore, what matters most is not where and how education is acquired but what is learned by the learners  and how much such learning can socially and economically benefit them.

Education-Social Development Disconnection

In its 1993 report, the North‑South Institute of Canada particularly noted that “there has been almost no improvement in the proportion of families that are poor.  This is despite the comparatively large and growing investment by provincial and federal governments in public education (in 1987/88, public expenditure in primary and elementary education in terms of percentage of GDP was 4.6%).”

As in the case of a First World country like Canada, the pattern of poverty in a Third World country like the Philippines and its educational achievements present stark contrasts.  When viewed against the well‑established notion that education is an effective tool of economic development, even upward social mobility, the relationship proves quite startling.  Consider, for example, the following:

The Philippines has a high literacy rate that  ranks  one of the highest all over the world.   It has   a big  number of English‑ speaking people which is now reputed to  be the third largest in the world and second only to  Great Britain.  Its  participation rate in primary education is nearly universal while its gross enrollment ratio at the tertiary level is higher than most Asian countries and even a few highly developed ones.  A large proportion of the population possesses some tertiary education and college degrees.

That the country has a well‑educated labor force and is host to world‑class agricultural, engineering and management education institutions, educational infrastructures which have even helped speed up the human resources build up and  the socio‑economic modernization of its neighbors are quite well-acknowledged.  In fact, it is from these  educational  institutions  where a big number of students from many developing countries acquired  their advance professional training.

But some macro‑indicators of its socio‑economic development prior to 1994 indicate seemed to belie the supposed important role of education.  The country’s annual per capita income of $ 450  was lower than most of its Asian neighbors.  It was characterized by  a very sluggish growth rate (GDP) that hardly reached the 4 % mark  but  which  actually  is reasonably attainable by average developing countries with even less educational achievements.  This situation is compounded and evidenced by a low Gross Value Added (GVA) rate of agriculture and a much lower one for industry.   About 59.5 % of the population fall under the poverty threshold ‑ a fact which could immediately be attributed  to an  unemployment rate of 10.5%  and underemployment of 31.9 % especially among  those with college degrees.

Philippine poverty has been officially defined as the sustained inability of the individuals and groups to meet their minimum basic needs (MBN).  A closer look at some of the major social indicators relative to these MBNs  reveal the extent and signs of  human deprivation amounting to an existence below human dignity – all of which have placed the Philippines at the 80th among the countries of the world  in the Human Development Index in 1992.

It should now be posited that the quality (and perhaps relevance) of education, to a large extent, has something to do with this disturbing relationship or the lack of positive correlation between social development and the provision of education.

Over the years the Philippines has tried, as many other countries in similar situation did to improve teacher training and the curriculum and accelerate infrastructure development (often with foreign loans) to raise the quality of education.  But all of these efforts and their connotation only heighten  the inconsistency with the findings of a World Bank study (1991) that the number of years of schooling is directly proportional to the growth rate of national income.  So, how else can the seeming lack of connection between education and  human development to be explained?

It is against the background of this complex question, that  more attention should be given to the issue of quality.  It is also further suggested that other learning variables which we may not have been considered or even ignored before should now be equally be looked into.  While we had made so much quantitative gains  in terms of access to basic education over the past twenty years, we can not say with confidence something dramatically been done with quality which should have really made education a real instrument of poverty alleviation.

Quality Education:  Notions and Rooted Practices

But just  what do we mean by quality?  A critical and brief re‑appraisal of some notions of quality education should now, therefore, be in order if only to have a view  of certain flaws and the appreciation of the extent of deeply entrenched social bias against lifelong learning minus school-based learning  processes.   This is necessary if only to lead us to a new way of looking at things towards  working paradigms for future policy reforms and program interventions.

First, it is quite imperative to see how educational systems view education itself.  Apparently,  educational systems tend to have a narrow view or concept  of quality.  This is  because education is viewed in a rather limited context in the first place. We are always told: quality education is expensive, hence,  it cannot be enjoyed by many.  So, while it is possible to make education accessible to all, that kind of education must necessarily be something cheap or low‑cost.  It seems that we can only choose between quantity and quality at the expense of the other (see for example Laya, 1985).

But which education are we referring to?  We know that most educational systems tend to equate education with mere schooling rather than learning ‑ an unfavorable situation that puts more value on how and where one gets educated rather than what and how much he learns (Barsaga and Imperial, 1989). This is even perpetuated by the bulk of educational literature worldwide, giving credence to the so‑called “cult of formal education”  which is akin to the phenomenon described by Dore (1976) as “Diploma Disease.”

The “culture of open learning” still appears to be alien to many people and governments.  This is rightly so.  As everywhere else, there appears the  Filipinos’ deep social bias against non-school based learning.  From all angles,  the bias is engendered by educational policy itself.   This bias, let alone the low investment in other ways of educating, like non‑formal education,  has inhibited educators and policy‑makers, until the coming of EFA in 1991 and its major investments in 1993,  from pursuing workable alternative learning systems.  This socially-shared  bias is  manifested when  education is viewed  simply as schooling rather than learning.

Educational policy making tends to see educational problem solving largely from point of view of formal education.  Thus, when policy makers bewail the educational deprivation of many of our people, they actually refer almost exclusively to those who cannot avail themselves of formal schooling. When educational problems ‑ be they questions of pedagogy, methods or management ‑  are to be solved,  solutions proceed almost exclusively from the formal education point of view. Corollarily, the quality of  education that we usually know and now value most is the academic type, which is written test-oriented.  Those visible social outcomes of nonformal and informal learning opportunities that directly  lead to a  better quality of life, policy-wise, have yet to be reckoned as quality education.

To most parents, students and teachers, it would seem that what matters to one’s survival and social participation is the possession of formal school credentials.  This social attitude according to the 1978 study  of Josefina Cortes  is largely  shaped by the perception that the formal schools are powerful certifying institutions.  Clearly, this social perception confirms that education basically performs  a credentialling function in the Philippines, a social phenomenon shared by many countries, both developed and developing.

By and large, schooling has become the only yardstick of knowledge and skills acquisition.  Given this well‑entrenched tradition or educational culture, what happens is that any reference to the quality of education is unwittingly based on the schools’ performance. Learning experiences acquired outside the formal structure which may have greater or longer‑lasting impact on the life of an individual are hardly considered as having to do with quality education (Imperial and Barsaga, 1991).  Drastic reduction of the community’s infant mortality rate, increase in farm productivity or family income, and improvement in nutrition status, sustained community participation, etc. ‑ these are some desirable poverty alleviating effects of learning processes but they rarely count in the planning of and policy on improving the quality of basic education.  And neither is dominant educational literature helpful in re‑enforcing  the fact that these are learning   opportunities that can be considered excellent education.

Given these notions of quality which  proceed  from a narrow view of education we can look at a few deeply rooted concepts nurtured by educational policy and traditions.  In the process, it might also be insightful if we consider some notions that may have been probably left out by the school system but may be useful in constructing a different lifelong learning paradigm.

The most dominant of these is the concept of academic excellence in the formal school setting.  Its main and, perhaps, only indicator is the result of written examinations. Examination‑dominated academic excellence has been observed to encourage rote learning, mechanical memorization of facts and chiefly relies on grades or marks both as a measure  of scholastic achievement and learning motivation (Little and Dore, 1982).  In many instances, profit‑oriented private institutions even use the examinations not  as a diagnostic tool but unwittingly as a corporate strategy to ensure regular collection of tuition fees in installments.  Such  a practice undoubtedly obscures the value and educational objective of written tests in the minds of the students.  And it is a humiliating experience, too.

It has been observed that the pre‑occupation with examination ratings is distortive of learning and pedagogy.  This is so because students tend to resist learning contents and methods other than those covered by examinations even if they provide intellectual stimuli (Brooke and Oxenham, 1984). Thus, Dore (1980) describes this examination‑dominated education as “uneducational.” With this system of motivation, one can only wonder how effective schooling is in forming skills that will equip a learner to continue learning.

Another problem with  the pursuit of high academic standards based on this notion of quality,  is that schools often resort to selective admission which very often is re‑inforced by streaming. At the school level, this institutionalizes social injustice even if streaming and selectiveness are resorted to with good intentions.  With streaming, fast learners and  those who need the least help are the ones taught by the best teachers and have priority for the use of special facilities, equipment and instructional materials while the weaker ones are left to the “mediocre teachers.”   This makes the school an effective breeding ground of social stratification.  Thus, with its far‑ reaching effect when it is reproduced in the larger society, instead of the Great Equalizer that schooling has been conceived to be, it has become the Great Sieve “that sorts and certifies people for their predetermined slot in society” (Husen, as cited in Simmons, 1983).

The second notion which may be very useful from the viewpoint of social development is that of relevance.  Some educational systems attach more importance to relevance as the  hallmark of quality (Brooke and Oxenham, 1984).  While a school can lay claim to academic excellence with examination results, what it teaches or how the subject is being taught does not necessarily mean that such is relevant. Sometimes, the obsession for excelling in examinations even weakens some efforts towards relevance. Relevant education means many things to many educational systems and its definition is usually heavily influenced by the prevailing political order. Thus, many educational systems “continue to hanker for a criterion more directly related to the economy” (Beeby, 1980) or education that fits one for life and livelihood in the village (Oxenham, 1984). Operationally, however, it takes so much structural efforts and institutional overhauling to make relevance as the touchstone of quality. This is why most school systems are quite slow in assimilating this principle in educational practice.

In the developing countries, Colombia’s Escuela Nueva stands out as a recent example of schools system which re‑defined the meaning of “learning success” by linking it with the development of its immediate social environment which is the community.  With this educational objective, the movement made schools to be “organized around raising achievement and retention in rural schools through community participation and by solving community development problems.  The redefined meaning of success of the schools has meant deliberate efforts towards higher agricultural productivity,  producing self‑confident youths who contribute significantly to productivity through informal self‑employment, and expansion of women’s opportunities among others.  Carnoy (1992) further describes the schools’ orientation on relevance and the effectiveness of the innovation:  “the curriculum content is readily adaptable to the circumstances of a particular community and emphasizes problem‑solving skills.”

The third notion of quality we can look at is functionality.  Educational literature has yet to articulate education’s impact on one’s or the community’s life as a measure of quality.  In many respects, this notion is related to relevance. Education is functional, as commonsense would tell us, if it produces positive results in the learners and their community. In its broadest normative meaning, it is highly functional if education is able to cause a person, the learner, to do something positive about a crisis or an opportunity, for himself and for the others, at the right time.  A highly functional education calls for a variety of creative pedagogical approaches and styles which are as important as the content itself, if we agree with Marshall MacLuhan that the “medium is the message.”  Pls. see Figure  3 for content‑method relations in the integrative planning/assessment of social outcomes of education.

In addition, functional knowledge or skills are the kind of knowledge that most often stick in one’s mind, that see a learner through life, and that are validated in the real world of work and in one’s quest for survival. In contrast, schooling becomes  nonfunctional or dysfunctional, for instance, when the love for manual work (which in itself is profoundly instructive) becomes the least the students learn from schools (see Cortez, 1980).

In Third World learning societies, functionality in the setting of the standards of quality education might be the key  in the understanding of the reasons why despite what and how much they know.  individuals are not moved at all to respond to certain adverse circumstances or opportunities around them.   This might, after all, be the main explanatory variable in  the very weak links between education and social mobility.

From the foregoing, we can surmise that the quality indicators that are limited to the notion of academic excellence and which excludes or neglect functionality and relevance may only yield a rather constricted view of the total determinants of human development.   At best, academic excellence concept can only succeed in portraying the internal efficiency of schooling.  But it may show little or nothing about social outcomes, impacts and implications of basic education (by any channel) on one’s survival and development in life or his performance in the world of work. And this situation makes schooling so aloof and impervious to the urgent need to facilitate human development.

We have so far considered policy and planning factors internal to the school system which make education somewhat miss  its social target.  We should also consider some influences which are external to the school but may be part of the total learning process.  This may also partly explain the mystery of education‑social underdevelopment nexus.

In an extensive review of research findings, Simmons and  Alexander (1983) concluded that the current technologies of  formal education are inefficient in their promotion of learning,  in both the developing and the developed countries.  Additional marginal inputs of capital or labor with these current technologies, like the quality or quantity of teacher training or reading curricula, may have little or no influence on the amount that students learn in school, as measured by achievement test and grades.  What seems to be more important in learning the subjects tested in school are family environment, peer group interaction, personality, and nutrition.

Human Values and Science Literacy, the Other Missing Link

But then we reckon that beside nutrition, so much of these external factors cited by Simmons and Alexander, in fact, have something to do with formation of values.

Because we have only been looking at the classroom, we may have been underestimating the importance of values formation engendered by the other learning channels. Or could it be that we do very little about it because it is difficult and politically complicated to do so.  But more than we can realize, values formation, or the lack of it in total human development might be the key to the better understanding of this elusive relationship.

Whether values can and should be taught in or by the schools has become debatable.  It is often argued that the molding of value is the natural role of the home.  That the school is helpless in the midst of the pervasive and powerful influence of mass media reveals certain social and institutional resignation.  For one thing, when values in the form of the traditional subjects like “character education, religious education, good manners and right conduct, etc.” are reduced to mere facts and mental exercises, parroted or mechanically learned by rote, assessed solely by written examinations and imposed as academic requirement as is most often the case, it loses its meaning and ironically undermines its social value.

In the same vein, schools seem not to have not meaningfully responded to the fundamental truism in educational sociology ‑ that the hidden curriculum is more powerful than the formal curriculum.  What little values education that may have been taught or imbibed in a year’s time may just be invalidated or overpowered by what the child observes in the school or outside of it. Thus, when teachers and administrators and the institutional structures themselves have their own problems with values and very often, they have, it is very fatal to society and human development.  And little has been done about it  as society at large is so slow to react and do something to fill the void.

Along this line, we may single out our pathetic level of science culture and literacy.  This is one learning area  which has its own values‑forming function and in many countries had been instrumental in fuelling productivity and hence, economic development.

Overall, it can be said that the large segment of the Filipinos, according to the Science and technology Education Plan (STEP) of the Philippines: 1993‑1998 have been deprived of useful scientific knowledge and information.  This is on account of three major factors.  First, the quantity and quality of science learning that they have acquired from schooling, by and large, leaves much to be desired.  Second,  the more established nonformal education programs of the government which should have filled the gap  suffers from various structural and substantive deficiencies which are aggravated by the poor social acceptance.  Third, the informal sources of knowledge especially the media which is expected to be a potent supportive educational channel cannot be harnessed as developmental tool.  In fact, the low level of scientific literacy is something attributed to the negative effects of the erroneous scientific messages dished out by the advertisement-heavy media. Advertising, which is a powerful media content due to its being a well‑financed and dominant industry, has emerged as a bane to both values inculcation and scientific literacy.  When general public especially the young are bombarded daily by deceptive and scientifically erroneous ads, disinformation and misinformation seep into the subconscious mind.  And this visibly affects individual behavior.  While there are a few broadcast media programs that carry S&T content, however, they are not aired during prime times which amounts to very little access.

In addition, the few public sources of science exposures like museums, exhibits and centrums are not only hardly patronized due to their location and unattractive packaging but they are also not given the attention and support that they need to make them effective tool to cultivate a science culture.

All of these instances highlight the need for schooling to have some external supportive mechanisms.  For some societies like that of the Philippines, the school can no longer exist in isolation from its more powerful competing environments.  Mass media is a very potent form of informal learning that shapes insights, attitudes and aspirations.  It now looms large  as a threat to the social‑moral order of many societies because of its negative messages that quickly subverts the learnings acquired from schools.  On the positive side, NGOs are also emerging as a reliable and timely learning channels as they are able to respond to the need for short‑gestating and relevant learning programs which are usually connected with livelihood development.  The  home remains to be the bedrock of formation.  But is the school system acting in concert with these purveryors of values in order to have unity of purpose and desired poverty‑oriented social outcomes?  Or do the schools continue to remain in isolation and perpetuate the inherent weaknesses in values inculcation?

When Integrative Plannning Means Lifelong Learning

The issue has so brought  us to the issue of the role and character of social planning for human development. The two‑prong question is simple: is the government’s view of education holistic enough as to cause its human development planning to be integrative? Put in another way, does it consider education as a process and an end that should encompass all sectoral development initiatives such that the planning and policy for all of these are translated into one set of highly inter‑ related human development objectives?  Or is it because despite the  profession of  an integrated and intersectoral approach, planning continues to be turf‑sectoral in substance, action and resource allocation?

In 1990, the Philippines together with the rest of the world community affirmed its commitment to the World Declaration on Education for All (EFA) in Jomtien, Thailand.  Less than a year later, it formulated its National Plan of Action for  Education for All which has been designed to be an anti‑poverty program through integrative planning.   It is worth noting that  the types and nature of the social development projects that were proposed in this  socio-educational plan really lend themselves to the pursuit of a comprehensive human development.   For this reason, therefore,  the Plan has been adopted by the Philippine Government not merely as an educational program but priority social development policy (President’s Memorandum Circular 141, 1992).

EFA has got what it takes to alleviate poverty ‑ by means of its “expanded vision of education.”  Taking this vision seriously, this means believing in lifelong learning and the ability to educate beyond the classroom. as reflected by the call for a revolution  in educational thinking as well as highly imperative courses of action to reform education  in EFA Declaration’s Article 1.  In fact, the Framework for Action to Meet Basic Learning Needs critically suggests that the solutions to the problems and gaps in education do not lie in the educational system alone, hence, the need for effective partnerships with non‑education sectors towards a Grand Alliance.  It offers  philosophical underpinnings of basic education and the avenues for pursuing the issue of quality and how to assess it are also clearly underlined.   With EFA,  the  goal of meeting the basic learning needs of all individuals presents a  tremendous opportunity for social engineering and its pivotal role in  the  stability of societies.

To broaden the means of access to and scope of basic education, the Declaration suggests that “all available instruments and channels of information, communication and social action could be used to help convey essential knowledge and inform and educate people on social issues.” Thus, libraries, television, radio and other media, in addition to traditional means can be mobilized towards meeting basic education needs of all (Article 5).  Indeed, EFA is very explicit about the distinct roles of the non‑school‑based learning modes in relation to the question of quality and the need to view the totality of learning process and learning acquisition.

Multiple Arenas of Learning

Considering the often‑decried discontinuity or lack of fit between  what  is taught in the classroom and the real life situations, basic education, to be adequate and responsive will have to increasingly draw some strategic contributions from what A. Little (1992) calls “multiple arenas for learning characterized in terms of familiar and new content, method, motivation and outcome.”  Most of these learning arenas fall under EFA’s Continuing Education for Development (CED) thrust.

CED is described by EFA as “the foundation of human resources development.”  Together with literacy education, CED constitutes the bulk of nonformal education (NFE) programs in many countries. .  Among the accessible and most organized CED activities are: agricultural extension, responsible parenthood programs, health education, science and technology transfer/diffusion, social welfare counseling, cooperatives and livelihood programs, community organizing, etc.  All of these can be so planned in  such a  way and direction as to yield the desired dramatic impacts on the whole spectrum of human development efforts within a shorter period of time.  Hence, its outcomes indicators are more diversified and socio‑economically‑oriented.

Parameters for Assessing Social Outcomes

Given the efficacy of CED as lifelong learning arena,  our suggestion is to equate educational development with the whole spectrum of human development.  Its planning, the program intervention and the assessment of its social impacts and outcomes, therefore, must be actively linked and harmonized with other sectors, especially those entities that clearly undermine its ability to address poverty ‑ through the Grand Alliance approach.

Towards this direction, there is a need to evolve a common parameters for the assessment of the social outcomes of basic education. This is necessary since there are two common factors shared by education with all social development sectors.  These are:  1) the ultimate goal of bringing about quality of life (QL), and 2) the teaching‑learning process as a main vehicle of service delivery.  For this task, we have so much to learn from Thailand which  evolved its famous BMNs by building on the provision of primary  health care (PHC) which is community‑based and intersectoral in participation. BMN is the backbone of the Thailand’s integrated Quality of Life  Programme (Piyaratn, et al, undated, pp. 2‑3).  This multi‑sectoral approach in planning even antedated  EFA’s concept of Grand Alliance.

But we say that basic education is a better and more widespread entrypoint of all QL efforts.  If we look at both the household and village BMN indicators of Thailand  and even that of the Philippines, we can readily infer that health and nutrition development including family planning naturally depend so much on health education.  The security for life and property and maintaining environmental integrity are functions of values inculcation.  Even the access to basic human needs of housing, food and water, in a setting of deprivation can result from the people’s internalization of certain motivation, attitudes and determination to be productive and to help themselves. In the same vein, the drive for community and values enhancement  is transmitted by teaching.

It is true that we cannot attribute all the tangible and intangible QL effects to basic education.  For, in all probability, they come about as a result of the combination of other HD sectoral inputs like health and, of course, economic resource factors.  But this is precisely the reason why education, in combination with other sectors and factors, should be collectively planned and their outcomes assessed in a holistic manner as is in the case of Thailand’s BMN approach.

But if we have to move in this direction, we should start by setting the desirable poverty‑focused end‑products of basic education with which we all can agree.  And along this line we reiterate EFA’s  concept of basic education which consists of the essential learning tools and basic learning contents which should result to the essentials of human development ‑ the  ability for survival, the development of human beings’ full capacities, living and working in dignity, full participation in development, improvement in the QL,  and the ability to make informed decisions and continue learning.  Taking a more holistic view for national development planning purposes, this quality of life is to  be equated with one’s physical and psychological ability to enjoy life which should be translated into individuals and groups who will produce more and better goods and services and who can maintain a social order conducive to productivity and national stability.   This concept must underpin our philosophy and objectives of human development (HD).

Under this concept of HD and depending on  particular socio‑ economic circumstances of a country, the QL indicators designed for all development intervention programs and entitlements in a Third World setting must result to a desired  set of social outcomes.  These social outcomes should be gauged by certain  ultimate criteria:  do all social sector programs/activities result to a longer life expectancy and better health status for the individual, increased income for the family and peace and order for the community.  In the final analysis, the simple gauges of HD based on QL can be summed into three broad final outcomes, namely:  1) physical and psychological welfare of the individual; 2) the economic and social welfare of the family; and 3) the political transformation of the community. So far, we may categorize the set of Philippine BMNs under these three broad criteria of QL.

But given the far‑reaching effects and the supposed outcomes, there must be a tacit agreement among social development planners and national authorities that the planning of basic education is to be subjected to greater social accountability and with  respect to the end‑products, its quality assessment  must be deliberate regardless of the modality of learning. The linking with social accountability and the assessment of outcomes also imply that the indicators to be developed and used are those “leading” or “suggestive” types which will impel (or inspire) implementors towards greater efficiency.  For example,  we should already be regularly using peace and order indicators in judging the quality of education in its formal, nonformal and informal contexts. It should be made accountable for lowering the incidence of crime, minimizing social conflicts, or the reduction in graft and corruption cases.  Greater accountability through the indicators used will pressure:  the schools to improve values education, the broadcast  and print media to get rid itself of excessive sex, violence and other negative messages, and most CED courses and NGOs to inculcate work ethics more effectively and inspire greater productivity among their clientele-learners.

We propose that after redefining the “meaning of success” in basic education which should be incorporated in the common Minimum Learning Competencies (MLCs)  for both formal and nonformal learning systems, we do something more beyond indicative planning, not leaving anything to chance and the uncertainties of the free market by a purposive assessment of the QL social outcomes.

Finally, we submit that while the conventional planning indicators and targets for the education sector may still serve their usual purposes (basically financial and administrative accountability) within and outside the school system (e.g. budget authorities), EFA as a comprehensive  QL program should graduate to a higher, more meaningful and purposive form of assessment within a fully operational Grand Alliance.  As Bonsting (1992) suggests, we should now move forward to the development of a new paradigm of education, whose “continuous improvement of learning process will replace the outdated ‘teach and test’ mode of instruction.”  In the name of social development we would   insist  on deliberate attempts to make the  teaching‑learning process anchored on the learning outcomes” such that the overarching focus, “is on the processes that bring forth desired results.”  In other words, if we modify the yardstick  and indicators of quality, we will have to reform the teaching process as well.

CONCLUSION AND AGENDA FOR ACTION

With the EFA World Declaration as the authority  on what constitutes  the basic learning  needs and the quality of basic  education, this paper  presented a survey and assessment  of the prevalent notions of quality and their social ramifications.

The paper has emphasized need  to re-define and re-direct the concept and philosophy of basic education.  We have also submitted that key is the system or methodology of  development planning and assessment of human development outcomes with lifelong learning as the entrypoint.

From the experience of developing countries exemplified by Thailand, and the Philippines’ in the development planning and project development, we have figured out a framework for the integrative planning and assessment of the outcomes of basic education.  The paper also identified certain  human development indicators, which can be adapted for basic education given the ultimate development goals that it shares with other sectors.

As presented and assessed, the indicators of social outcomes focusing on basic minimum needs (BMNs)  still have more rooms for improvement and expansion in the immediate future.   We dare claim that the proposed indicators can already help harmonize and simplify the existing body of social indicators and those that have yet to be developed.  Hopefully, the use of this  assessment instruments will hasten the integration of human development by minimizing piece-meal or compartmentalization of planning and program development.

This present state-of-the art brings us to some imperatives singly and collectively within the concerned APEC economies.

First,  even as the integrative HD  outcome assessment is well advocated, there is still a big need for improving the framework and instruments of sectoral evaluation.  Micro analysis/assessment in national development planning may have to vary and enrich qualitative evaluation.  Depending on the agreement on what constitutes lifelong learning that could be made, group of economies may look into the possibility of a review of human development planning systems based on such a common concept.

Second, educational systems and development planning authorities will have to firmly set the acceptance of integrative planning focused on HD in place.  Meanwhile,  there is still so much advocacy work to do within governments and bureaucracies and NGOs of Grand Alliance approach.  The fundamental issue of accepting  and supporting lifelong learning primarily through  the non-formal and informal learning channels and their strategic roles in the provision of quality basic education will have to be resolved once for all.  Otherwise, quality basic learning will not be for all.

Third, educational and development planning systems of the concerned APEC economies  will have to jointly continue the hard work towards the refinement of QL indicators that will be more or less acceptance to all.  Part of this acceptance is the primacy of the teaching-learning process in bringing about the desired social outcomes.  In this refining work, the output must be able to arrive at definite conclusions as to how much human development can be attributed to basic education.  It’s quite a tall order but it will be immensely interesting and useful.

Lastly and most importantly, concomitant to the reforms and innovation in the methodology of assessment,  deliberate steps must be taken to help the learning systems redefine their meaning of learning success and thereby reform the teaching-learning process and learning content as well.    The atmosphere and forces of globalization should help bring about a workable and acceptable concept that will profoundly alter the  content, methods, structures and policy-making in education, especially lifelong learning.

nbi:  8/18/09  5:51 PM

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