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 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).
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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