Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Article Type: From: Quality Assurance in Education, Volume 19, Issue 4
John DalrympleEditor, QAE, for the Editorial Team
The aftermath of the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) continues to impact on the education sector internationally. The Greek government has passed a set of laws that has enabled it to secure further financial support from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund. One of the measures passed in the Greek parliament will result in a significant reduction in the number of people employed in the public sector. It seems likely that the public education system in Greece will not be immune from the effects of the austerity measures that the government has introduced.
Meanwhile, in the UK, the government has released a White Paper “Students at the Heart of the System” heralding a significant change in direction for higher education in England. The White Paper promises a new focus on student charters, student feedback and graduate outcomes, as well as a renewed focus on the quality of teaching in the higher education sector in England. Clearly, anyone with an interest in quality assurance in education welcomes the ends promised in the White Paper and it will be interesting to see if the other legislatures in the UK, namely Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, follow the English lead and introduce similar changes in their systems.
In the United States of America, the debate about the levels of federal debt is giving rise to political discussion about levels of taxation income, spending and expenditure cuts. It is likely that the political compromise will result in some of both, some increase in taxation and also some public expenditure cuts. In this case, the public education system is also likely to have to bear some share of the reduction in expenditure.
In the current fiscal environment, it is more important than ever that improvements in the quality of every aspect of education are relentlessly pursued. This means discovering new ideas and innovating in every aspect of the educational environment. One function of the journal is to bring to the attention of the readership the ideas and innovative approaches that colleagues have tried in their own contexts and disseminate this knowledge to encourage the adoption or adaptation of these ideas and innovative approaches in new contexts.
The first paper, by John Walker, addresses the issue of quality in the teaching of English to no-native English speakers. At a time when many institutions in the developed economies have become increasingly reliant on international students, English language capability is an important concern for all levels of education in both developed and developing economies. Using a Delphi method, the author develops a framework for identifying what constitutes a professional in the field of English language teaching. The Delphi panel consisted of people with knowledge and expertise in English language teaching in private and public sector organisations as well as professional membership organisations. The results of this research provide a useful framework for quality enhancement in the English language-teaching context.
The second paper by Dennis Law and Jan Meyer investigates the learning styles and learning patterns of a group of students in post-secondary education in Hong Kong. The research using the inventory of learning styles instrument focused on the portability of this instrument from the Western higher education environment in which it was developed, to the context of the Hong Kong post-secondary education environment. The authors conclude that establishing the validity and reliability of the instrument in the new environment of Hong Kong enables the instrument to be used in the quality enhancement processes in that context.
In the third paper, Galal Afifi addresses the issue of e-learning in tourism higher education in Egypt. The economic imperative driving expansion of the tourism industry in Egypt is placing increasing demands on the existing tourism education providers that may exceed their capacity to deliver to an appropriate standard. The author investigated the stage of development of e-learning capability and found that although the Egyptian government has invested in the provision of high speed internet and associated infrastructure, only the public institutions have engaged with e-learning. Even these institutions have only reached the basic stages of deployment of e-learning and, in the short term, the education and training gap is unlikely to be readily filled by new technology approaches.
The paper by Albert Sangrà and Pedro Fernández-Michels also adresses the issue of e-learning provision, in this case, in the autonomous Catalonia region of Spain. The authors identified companies that are engaged in e-learning in the corporate sector in Catalonia. The picture that emerged from their analysis of the private providers examined was heterogeneous and the general outcome was that the approach to quality was more one of compliance and student satisfaction rather than deploying more sophisticated metrics relating to e-learning. The private providers of e-learning experiences in the corporate sector are likely to become more important as the transition to life long learning proceeds and it is important that a more sophisticated approach is used to quality in this context.
The next paper by Mary Jo Jackson, Marilyn M. Helms and Mohammad Ahmadi continues on the broad theme of the use of information and communications technologies in the post-school education system. The authors investigated the pedagogies that students expected their teachers to deploy in the course of their classes and compared them with the pedagogies that students would hope to find in an ideal classroom situation. The sample was taken from a cohort of first year students who were under the age of 20. Theis cohort comes from a very information technology literate group in the population and the results perhaps provide an indication of the expectations and aspirations of future student cohorts more generally.
The penultimate paper by Øyvind Helgesen and Erik Nesset investigates the influence of the drivers of quality on students’ loyalty to an important element of their student experience, namely the institution’s library. The nature of libraries has changed significantly with the advent of information and communication technologies. Libraries, more than any other element of the student experience, have had to adapt to the new realities and provide significantly different facilities to those that were regarded as appropriate and adequate less than three decades ago. The authors have used an established instrument to assess the student affinity with the library provision in an institution in Norway. In the current fiscal environment, the provision of relatively expensive resources such as libraries must be justified against the competing priorities in the institution. This approach provides a method to gain guidance about the extent to which the current library provision is meeting the needs of current students and it provides information that may be used in a diagnostic way to ensure that library provision continues to meet the requirements of an important stakeholder group.
The final paper by Susan Warring, a case study, examines two levels of qualifications through the lens of the New Zealand Qualifications Framework. The qualifications examined are in business disciplines at Diploma and Bachelor levels. The development of qualifications frameworks has evolved over the past few decades to provide assurance and guidance relating to what holders of various qualifications are able to do once they graduate. The framework process has contributed to national and international standards. However, with the transition to lifelong learning and the imperative of governments to increase the qualifications achievements of citizens, it is important to have a clear understanding of the progression from one qualification level to the next. This is particularly important in establishing robust credit transfer regimes. This case study provides insight to these important relationships.
The final element of this issue is a review of Gitachari Srikanthan’s book “Holistic Model for Quality in Higher Education: Development, Implementation and Implications” by Alistair Inglis.
The papers in this issue cover a range of topics, from the service quality through the deployment of information and communications technologies, in a number of jurisdictions to quality in English language teaching and the use of national qualifications frameworks. It is particularly gratifying that the issue concludes with a review of Gitachari Srikanthan’s book, a task that he completed after many years of excellent and devoted service as Associate Editor of the journal.
John DalrympleEditor, QAE, for the Editorial Team