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The Problem of Definition The concept of quality is very evasive

  3. The Problem of Definition The concept of quality is very evasive. It is perplexing to define and often difficult to come by an agreed f...


3. The Problem of Definition The concept of quality is very evasive. It is perplexing to define and often difficult to come by an agreed formal definition for the term. One person’s idea of quality often conflicts with another and, as we are all too aware, no two experts ever come to the same conclusions when discussing what makes an excellent school, college or university. As Sallis (n.d ) puts it, We all know quality when we experience it, but describing and explaining it is a more difficult task. In our everyday life we usually take quality for granted, especially when it is regularly provided. Yet we are all too acutely aware when it is lacking. We often only recognized the importance of quality when we experience the frustration and time wasting associated with its absence. In Ghana, like elsewhere, quality in education faces definitional problems. It becomes more problematic when quality is conceptualized in terms of a particular aspect of education because as Dare (2005) observes, ‘all the elements associated with educational quality are interrelated. A serious defect in one element is likely to have implications for quality in others’.

 Moreover, questions regarding quality may be posed about any important aspect of the educational system: infrastructure, school buildings, administration, leadership, management, teacher training, educational materials, teaching, student achievement. More problems arise when the outcomes of education are the focus for defining quality. This is because purposes of education are cultural bound and value-laden. For example, for some people, the purpose of education is to foster students’ cognitive, moral, and social development; for others it is a means of promoting social cohesion and nation building; while for some others, it is a preparation for the world of work. This complex situation makes even agreement on quality assessment results problematic. This is reflected in ADEA’s (2004) observation that ‘Quality assessment is one of the thorniest governance issues in most universities partly because most universities cannot agree on the mechanisms for the assessment’ (p.63-64). 5 Perhaps, a more simplified solution to the definitional problem lies in Harvey’s (1995) linkage of quality to transformation. In this sense, quality education is narrowed to ‘qualitative change.’ Yet this does not resolve the problem. Viewed this way, the notion of quality becomes more perplexing when applied to education (Elton, 1992).

 This is because Education is an ongoing process of transformation of the participant: the student, learner or researcher. In this light, the achievement of universal participation in education will be fundamentally dependent upon the quality of education available. A plethora of studies have shown that how well pupils are taught and how much they learn, can have a crucial impact on the effectiveness of school education they get. Furthermore, whether parents send their children to school at all is likely to depend on judgments they make about the quality of teaching and learning provided. As example, many parents want their daughters who go through the Basic Education Certificate Examination (BECE) in Ghana to attend Wesley Girls Senior Secondary School in the Central Region just because this school has been at the top of the country’s league table for three consecutive years. By being on top of the league table, it is assumed that teaching and learning in the school is of higher quality.

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