Quality Assurance in Higher Education in Arab Region - Karma El Hassan
QUALITY ASSURANCE IN HIGHER EDUCATION IN ARAB REGION Paper Presented to the OECD/IMHE General Conference1 Attaining and Sustaining Mass Higher Education, 17-19 September 2012, Paris, France. K. El Hassan, PhD. American University of Beirut.
OUTLINE Introduction Higher Education in Arab Region Achievements of a Decade of Higher Education Attempts at Quality Assurance in Arab States • Inter-Arab systems • International donors Higher Education Challenges in Arab Region: • Educational Opportunity • Quality of Education Recommendations 2
INTRODUCTION Quality assurance refers to review procedures undertaken by higher education institutions that are designed to • safeguard academic standards, and • promote learning opportunities of acceptable quality for students. Arab region has witnessed great expansion in higher education in last decade in number of institutions and enrollment rates due to • the demographic reality of a larger youth population, often referred to as the youth bulge • rise in social demand for higher education, and • the reform initiatives and explicit policy changes undertaken by governments 3
HIGHER EDUCATION IN ARAB REGION All Arab states underwent reform of their higher education systems, yet they pursued distinct models of reforms with different implications for the role of the state. Most of the countries in the region worked on o improving access and quality o emphasizing the importance of establishing a knowledge economy and increasing global competitiveness. The higher education system most commonly applied is that of public education with a tendency for an increase in number of privately-based systems. The types of higher education have become more diverse and non- government institutions have appeared in big numbers, along with foreign universities or partnership programs with foreign 4 universities.
HIGHER EDUCATION IN ARAB REGION Buckner (2011) identified three reform strategies in Arab world Neoliberal reforms aim to expand access to higher education while offsetting costs to consumers and the private sector. This includes the establishment of private universities, and programs such as “Open Learning” and “Parallel Learning” whereby students pay small fees to study programs Jordan, Syria, Egypt, and Tunisia have applied this model with varying degrees of success. Quality Assurance. Maghreb countries emphasized the importance of the state in providing higher education while pursuing strategies to strengthen the internal and external efficiency of tertiary education. Pursued large-scale quality assurance programs inspired by the Bologna process for better alignment and greater student mobility. Imported Internationalization. Gulf states resorted to “modernizing” higher education systems in the form of extensively privatizing the provision of higher education and also establishing extensive international 5 partnerships with American and British universities .
ACHIEVEMENTS OF A DECADE OF HIGHEREDUCATION Due to huge efforts exerted by Arab countries, many achievements were realized in the last decade. These achievements differed from one country to another according to prevailing socioeconomic and political conditions (El Amin, 2009). They are mostly in domains • Educational opportunities. Enrollment in higher education showed an increase of 117% after controlling for population increase, and gross enrollment ratio (GER) increased from 18% to 22% on average for Arab region, at 4% over last five years. Female enrollment increased with Gender Parity Index (GPI) equaling 1on average with several exceeding it. Number of universities has more than doubled in last decade, Considerable diversity in the features of these institutions: state/private education; national/foreign universities; local programs/partnership programs with foreign universities abroad, etc. 6
ACHIEVEMENTS OF A DECADE OF HIGHER EDUCATION Quality of Education • 14 countries have established national commissions or committees for accreditation and quality assurance • Some universities have started a self-assessment process, while others have sought accreditation by international accreditation agencies • Faculty qualifications have witnessed an improvement with 60% of professors holding PhD. degrees, although the majority focuses on science and technology disciplines Other Achievements • A continued trend toward increased higher education budgets. Compare very well with international standards with respect to percentage of GDP spent on education. • New education projects by public and private sectors have been launched and the trend is for more 4-year universities and technical 7 institutes
ATTEMPTS AT QUALITY ASSURANCE IN ARABSTATES Several initiatives towards the formulation of national and inter-Arab QA systems were launched motivated by the desire to strengthen collaboration and cooperation in quality assurance among the Arab countries • establishment of a regional mechanism for quality assurance and accreditation under the auspices of the Association of Arab Universities • the creation of an Arab Establishment for Program QA (AEPQA) • ALECSO, 2008) in which it called for setting Arab standards for quality and academic excellence 8
ATTEMPTS AT QUALITY ASSURANCE IN ARABSTATES Several similar and overlapping initiatives at the regional level:• The Arab Council for QA established by Association of Arab Universities (AArU) who has produced institutional framework guidelines for self and external assessment, measurements and general conditions for assessment and accreditation.• „The Arab Network for Quality Assurance in Higher Education‟ (ANQAHE) was launched in 2007 as an independent, non-profit, non-governmental organization established in association with the International Network for Quality Assurance Agencies in Higher Education (INQAAHE). It serves as a platform to exchange information; disseminate knowledge; and improve professional expertise of the national quality assurance agencies, to enhance the collaboration between similar quality assurance organizations in the Arab and with other regional and international quality assurance networks.• Arab Quality Assurance and Accreditation Network “ARQAANE” was established in 2007, as an independent, non-profit organization aiming at raising the quality of higher education in the Arab world and cooperation between the Arab Quality Assurance and Accreditation Networks. 9
ATTEMPTS AT QUALITY ASSURANCE IN ARABSTATES International donors have also contributed in promoting higher education QA. • In partnership with UNESCO, the World Bank has launched a Global Initiative for QA Capacity (GIQAC) to support policy dialogues between all QA regional initiatives and conducted a scoping study to define the needs of the national QA organizations. In addition funded projects in several countries. • The UNDP higher education (subject assessment) project, targeted universities in 14 Arab Countries. 73 programs were reviewed in Computer Science , Business Administration, Education, and Engineering. Furthermore, the project has built QA regional capacities of experienced peer reviewers. • The British Council funded a regional QA activity in the Near East and North Africa (NENA) aiming at producing common guidelines to facilitate developing regional standards and subject benchmarks to redesign the curriculum, develop approaches to learning/teaching and assess student performance against desired learning outcomes. • The German DAAD‟s activities focus on international dialogues via conferences, visits and professional training in self and external evaluation and capacity building. 10
HIGHER EDUCATION CHALLENGES IN ARABREGION: EDUCATIONAL OPPORTUNITY Despite increased enrollment, Arab countries ranks sixth in the region and less than developed countries. A drop-off of males seeking higher education. Arab countries graduate a disproportionately higher number (46%) from arts, and only 8% hold masters or PhD degrees with 92% bachelors holders (UNESCO, 2009). Average spending per student is around $2,500 while it is around $14,000 in OECD countries. 11
HIGHER EDUCATION CHALLENGES IN ARABREGION: QUALITY OF EDUCATION Curriculum quality, there is a consensus that it is weak; its content out- dated and lacks relevance to development and labor market needs. • graduates academic standards in terms of language, math and critical thinking are weak. • There is a lack of lifelong learning culture with a low rate of students beyond age of 29 in higher education • Insufficient levels of leadership development opportunities through extra curricula activities and curricula enrichment • Efforts centered on raising public awareness of importance of community engagement and not on key changes in curriculum and community. 12
HIGHER EDUCATION CHALLENGES IN ARABREGION: QUALITY OF EDUCATION Assessment is a weakness because of its emphasis on memory recall of knowledge, lack of focus on higher-level cognitive skills, and Absence of internal or external mechanisms for ensuring transparency and fairness. Student support systems are not strong and targeted support for various special needs is patchy. Quality assurance and enhancement systems at institutional level are still minority, and a quality culture in which annual feedback, evaluation and monitored actions plans are the norm has not yet evolved. 13
HIGHER EDUCATION CHALLENGES IN ARABREGION: QUALITY OF EDUCATION No regional higher education body to ensure standards and national QA associations suffer from following shortcomings • Overwhelming majority of them remain oriented toward the “accreditation” of private universities, which is classified as quality control more than quality assurance; • They all remain in a transitory phase and have yet to arrive at an independent, integrated structure or one that enjoys authority or moral value in the entire sector. • None of them has become an independent institution with moral authority and a significant impact on state education institutions, and their criteria do not become an intrinsic part of university life, or in classes, or in the management of higher education. • In many cases, they have become part of the bureaucratic system, in terms of work mechanisms, and at times they have become bureaucratic arms for monitoring quality at private sector institutions and punishing institutions that are violating the regulations in force. 14
HIGHER EDUCATION CHALLENGES IN ARABREGION: QUALITY OF EDUCATION Faculty • Need for professional development and skills-based training especially in technology and participative teaching techniques. • Teaching is didactic with no emphasis on students becoming independent learners and critical thinkers. • Current system and lack of tenure does not reward faculty performance and full time engagement in academia, and this affects development of a research culture and knowledge production. • Insufficient institutional resources for teaching and research. • A problem of particular concern for universities teaching in Arabic is the limited choice they have in terms of available textbooks and the shortage of teaching materials. 15
HIGHER EDUCATION CHALLENGES IN ARABREGION: QUALITY OF EDUCATION Governments role. • Centralized education systems were organized to facilitate quantitative expansion rather performance-oriented systems with emphasis on quality and continuous improvement. • Governments lack experience in policy and strategy development as well as in planning and management of higher education systems . • Ministries imposed unnecessary rigid controls and their higher education policy did not promote integrated, decentralized decision-making, and greater efficiency 16
HIGHER EDUCATION CHALLENGES IN ARABREGION: QUALITY OF EDUCATIONConclusion: Tangible achievements, when it comes to improving quality, are not noticed in Arab region. This was confirmed by World Bank report on the region “While the countries here invest a higher proportion of their gross domestic product on education than other regions in the world, the region continues to face challenges in developing a high-quality education system at all levels and promoting life-long learning and training that responds to the needs of the labor market” (World Bank, 2007). Generally, the efforts exerted by Arab countries in this domain are insufficient in today‟s world of knowledge, competitiveness, rapid transformation and students‟ increased demand for enrolment 17
FUTURE DIRECTIONS The Arab region education system faces several threats: • the young demographics of the Arab population with 56% in the 20- 29% age bracket, as compared to 25% in OECD countries; • dwindling resources and accordingly less spending on higher education, • brain drain with an estimated 85% of PhD. holders not returning to the region. Arab region should work on launching interventions that would yield quick results through high impact initiatives in the following domains: • human capital and skills of faculty and staff in higher education; • infrastructure and resources; • collaboration and connectivity; • quality and programs. 18
RECOMMENDATIONSMore specifically, strategies that to be adopted should include1. Offsetting financial needs of the education system through cost recovery, outsourcing to private sector and other best practices.2. Increasing international universities with branches in the region and establishment of new private universities that endorse students‟ development of 21st century skills.3. Academic programs and curricula must be revisited so that intended learning outcomes reflect international requirements with greater emphasis on higher cognitive skills such as evaluation, critical analysis and synthesis.4. Adopting a pro-active approach to staff training and development for teaching, learning and assessment.5. Virtual networking and collaborations among institutions and academics including linkages to Arab academics abroad. This will help in establishing needed external benchmarks against which to judge institutional performance.6. Formalizing and institutionalizing quality assurance and enhancement systems 19
RECOMMENDATIONS7. Use of technology in upgrading skills and capabilities.8. Increasing chances for student participation and leadership development, in addition to developing their evaluation and critical analysis skills. Instructional methods that engage students in classroom experience should be leveraged and curricula enrichment and extra-curricular activities should be initiated.9. Improving student support systems.10. Improving teaching and resources in Arabic and supporting enhancement of language skills.11. Establishment and support of scholarly societies to enhance research structure12. Enhancing governments‟ capabilities in strategic planning and 20 management of higher education
THANK YOU K. El Hassan, PhD. firstname.lastname@example.org 21