Enhancing Quality for Higher Education:
Civil Society Perspective
Quality has become a major concern in higher education. Therefore, it is necessary to carry out the assessment and enhancement of quality of higher education. In the process of enhancing the quality of higher education, emphasis should be placed on the students’ personal development for professional life. To implement the Union of Myanmar society’s perspective, the National Centre for Human Resource Development was established with the belief that it can produce highly qualified human resources needed by the nation.
Higher Education plays a vital role in the economic and social development of nations throughout the world. In this 21st century, qualitative transformation is, therefore, required in higher education institutions which are functionally interdependent because the world workforce markets need qualified persons. The higher education sector, comprising various professional institutions should be venues where quality teaching, learning and training are conducted, quality researches undertaken and quality service rendered.
Missions of Higher Education
With regard to the missions of higher education, the Havana Conference, the Dakar Conference, the Tokyo Conference, the Palermo Conference and the Beirut Conference and other conferences on education made declarations. The regional conferences have arrived at the following missions:
(i) the paramount mission of higher education is to serve the human person and society;
(ii)through its work of research and inquiry, its courses of study and training, its cooperation activities and its partnerships with various social sectors, higher education is called upon to make a key contribution to opening up and high-lighting new paths to a better future for society and the individual, and to give direction and shape to that future. The development of capacities to explore the future requires the full attention of higher education;
(iii)from this standpoint, it has twofold missions: (a) participating actively in the solving of major global, regional and local problems, such as poverty, hunger, illiteracy, social exclusion, the exacerbation of inequalities and protection of environment, and (b) working to promote: sustainable human development, the sharing of knowledge; universal respect for human rights; equal rights for women and men; justice and the application of democratic principles within its own institutions and in society; understanding among ethnic, religious, culture and other social groups; a culture of peace and non-violence; “intellectual and moral solidarity”
(iv)the traditional mission of maintaining, increasing and diffusing knowledge through research and intellectual creation, and teaching and spreading knowledge in various ways, is fundamental. It concerns science and technology and the social and human sciences and implies taking account of the needs of society and its economic, social and cultural development as well as major world trends foreseeable for the years ahead. It includes the task of developing endogenous capacities for acquiring and applying existing knowledge and creating new knowledge. In regard to teaching proper, its task is to educate responsible, enlightened and active citizens and highly qualified specialists, while ensuring all-round education and well-rounded individual development, including sound training in both specialists and basic disciplines together with a good general education, and the task of helping students to learn to learn and to learn to be enterprising. This mission has an important ethical and civic aspect, for it means helping students to acquire knowledge, skills, attitudes, values and abilities that will incline them to act as responsible, committed citizens. It has yet another aspect which will in future become increasingly important namely the updating and improvement of knowledge and skills and the further education or career-change retraining of graduates or non-graduates.
(v)one of the most important missions of higher education in society is its cultural and ethical mission. Higher education is required to preserve and assert cultural identity, promote the propagation and creation of cultural values, protect and encourage cultural diversity and participate actively in the development of intercultural understanding and harmony and mutual enrichment of cultures.
(vi)one of the major missions of higher education is to contribute to the implementation of lifelong learning for all, to become an essential element and driving force in such education and to that end to change and overhaul itself. Thus higher education has a great responsibility in regard to the whole of the education system and educational activities in society.
Quality of Higher Education for Civil Society
Quality in higher education is a multidimensional concept which should embrace all its functions and activities: teaching and academic programmes, research and scholarships, staffing, students, infrastructure and academic environment. Particular attention should be paid to research, which advances knowledge and attests to intellectual excellence.
The potential of new information technologies for the renewal of higher education by extending and diversifying delivery, and by making knowledge and information available to a wider public should be fully utilized.
Being an indicator for organizational performance, the quality of education should be the primary goal of all educational institutions, including universities. By definition, quality is the extent to which a product or service meets a complex requirements.
Thus universities should aspire to satisfy the requirements of their students, staff, stakeholders and the society.
Quality management in education is vital in the development of the country. The cohesion of the requirement of students, society and university staff is the foundation of sustainable knowledge spiral to quality education.
Universities seem the perfect arena to engage young people in civic education. Service-learning is a form of experiential education in which students engage in activities that address human and community needs together with structured opportunities intentionally designed to promote student learning and development. Quality has become a major concern in higher education. This is because meeting society’s needs and expectations towards higher education depends ultimately on the quality of its staff, programmes and students, as well as its infrastructure and academic environments. The search for quality has many facets and the principal objective of quality enhancement measures in higher education should be institutional as well as system-wide self-improvement.
The assessment and enhancement of quality should start with and involve the teaching and research staff. Human resource development policies, especially concerning recruitment and promotion should be based on clear principles and well-defined objectives. Quality assessment is essential to the search for solutions which will enhance the quality of higher education because quality higher education trains qualified and adaptable human resources who are needed for society’s peace and development activities.
Higher Education and Society Development
Two parallel trends determine the relationship between higher education and the world of work. Firstly, higher education is moving towards a mass enrollment system as modern economies become increasingly knowledge-intensive and therefore depend more on graduates of higher education who constitute a “thinking work-force”. Secondly, graduates will have to accept the need to keep changing jobs, update their knowledge and learn new skills.
The process of globalization provides additional evidence that modern development of human resources implies not only a need for expertise in advanced professionalism, but also full awareness of the cultural, environmental and social issues involved.
It has become important for higher educational institutions to reinforce their role in enhancing ethical and moral values in society and to focus attention on developing an active participatory civic spirit among future graduates. Greater emphasis is also needed on the student’s personal development alongside preparation for professional life. The demand for such graduates and study programmes could represent an opportunity for the revitalization of humanities and the arts in higher education and open up new opportunities for co-operative links with various economic and public organization – civil society.
If the university or any other higher education institutions is expected to make a significant contribution to change and to enable advancement in a society, the state and society in general should perceive higher education as less a burden on the public budget and more as a long-term national investment for enhancing economic competitiveness, cultural development and social cohesion. Public support to higher education remains essential to ensure its educational, social and institutional mission.
Four essential functions of higher education in supporting knowledge-driven economic growth are:
- the capacity to train a qualified and adaptable labour force – including high level scientists, professionals, technicians, teachers for basic and secondary education, as well as future government;
- the capacity to generate new knowledge;
- the capacity to access existing stores of global knowledge and adapt it to local use;
- the transmission of norms, values, attitudes and ethics as the foundation of the social capital necessary to construct healthy civil societies and cohesive cultures, the very bedrock of good governance and democratic political systems’(World Bank, 2002).
Myanmar Society’s Perspective
The National Centre for Human Resource Development was established in Myanmar to diversify education opportunities in order to produce highly qualified human resource needed by a modern nation. Upholding the belief that education is a lifelong learning process, the centres function with the following main aims:
- to widen the scope of choices for students wishing to pursue job-related knowledge, skills and technology
- to establish new programmes for training and retraining
- to offer opportunities to those graduates who desire to contnue with their studies to acquire advanced skills and knowledge
- to establish a parallel education system which nurtures intellectuals and experts needed by the society
- to enable those who wish to continue their studies to do so without being burden to the state
- to encourage on the budget provided by the state by conducting courses that charge minimum amount of tuition fees
- to prevent education wastages by enabling those who have not completed their tertiary level education to do so at their own pure and during their free time
- to confer degrees, diplomas and certificate appropriate to the curriculum and length of the courses
- to utilize retired academics in order to make use of their skills and knowledge.
Under the National Centre for Human Resource Development (NCHRD) the Centres for Human Resource Development are established at every higher education institution under the Ministry of Education. The centres identify community needs and initiate vocational, professional and technology-based courses that are in demand.
The demand for business-related courses is also being met by HRDC. The business law and commercial law diplomas are offered by these centres. Some courses opened by the HRD centres were conducted in partnership with foreign and local private enterprises.
Civil society has recognized that quality higher education can contribute a great deal in the following broad area of civil society:
- First, higher education institutions help promote new technologies, new processes, new products, new ideas in local and regional economies. This focus on innovation enables faculty and leaders to think creatively about how to leverage their strengths in knowledge creation to yield tangible economic benefits.
- Second, higher education institutions provide strategies to help employers prosper and grow. They do this by deploying their strengths in knowledge transfer – through worker training, management counseling, their help for startups, and other initiatives.
- Third, higher education institutions are playing a more vigorous role in community revitalization. Many are significant facilitators in their home communities.
- Finally, the most fundamental contribution of higher education to the economic development lies in its traditional role: creating an educated population. The new economy is making the traditional academic mission more important.
Therefore, from the perspectives of civil societies, enhancement of the quality of higher education plays a vital role in the economic development of the society.