Since the medieval period, universities have evolved to become centres of new knowledge, understanding, skills and experience through research, learning and teaching, leadership, outreach and service to society.
It is generally accepted that universities exist to execute functions related to research, teaching and learning and that they provide services to the community under conditions of institutional autonomy and academic freedom (UNESCO, 2009).
These functions are summarised under the three pillars of higher education: Teaching, Research and Community Outreach.
Indeed, it has been established that one of the main factors that spurred the growth of industrialized nations is research and innovation.
The industrial revolution in the 17th Century was engineered by innovation and discovery through research (Bruland & Mowery, 2004).
The Asian tigers and other newly industrialized nations invested heavily in scientific research to be able to transform the lives of their citizens.
As a leading private university, Kabarak University carries out teaching, research, innovation and outreach activities under seven schools and four directorates.
Being cognizant of society's challenges, our university embraces research and scholarly conferences because research leads to the generation of new knowledge and innovative ways of solving humanity's problems.
Meaning and Significance of Education
Education is a bi-polar process.
Like a magnet, it has two poles; the child and the teacher, who continuously influence one another. Both are active participants (Ravi, 2022).
According to John Dewey, as quoted in Sinha (2018), education is a three-dimensional process, a tri-polar process involving interaction between the Educator, the Educated and the social environment.
Education is a process that enables man to acquire and develop desired new knowledge, skills and altitudes. It is also a process where the individual mind develops to its full capacity (Ode, Chauhan, & Sharma, 2021).
Aristotle argues that education is the creation of a sound mind in a sound body (Gutek, 2022).
Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi, a Swiss educator, argues that education represents the progressive development of man’s innate powers.
He believed that education should develop the powers of ‘Head’, ‘Heart’ and ‘Hands’ (Pestalozzi, J. H.,1859).
On his part, John Dewey avers that education is the development of all those capacities in the individual that enable him to control his environment and fulfil his possibilities (Shook & Good, 2010).
Education, therefore, is an integrating process with intrinsic value that takes one’s whole life and helps him to modify his behaviour and discover lasting values.
It is not mere schooling because what is learnt in schools is limited to an extent.
Education is not mere training of the mind because even if the mind is trained, people still learn and get educated.
Education should not be used just to create conformity because conformity leads to mediocrity, yet mediocrity kills spontaneity which in turn breads fear.
Education reconstructs and reorganizes human experiences. It makes man superior to other animals
Several scholars have written about the benefits of education (Behrman,1997; McMahon, 2004; Lance, 2011, and Vila, 2000).
It is essential for life adjustment and growth in a society.
Education acts as a basis of moral behaviour, a means of human happiness and human welfare.
Education balances individual capacity with social services.
It assists those with low intelligence and encourages strength, virtue and integrity.
Education leads to self-preservation.
It makes man earn a living, use pleasure properly, and raises children properly while promoting personality development and democracy.
Given the significance of education to a country and to the individual citizens, the Government of Kenya and universities have initiated several reforms in the sector since independence (Ojiambo, 2009; Muricho, & Chang’ach, 2013).
The tragedy in this country is that, all and sundry, the educated and the uneducated, in equal measure, claim to be experts in education.
Education should be left to the experts in education together with stakeholders.
That was the approach taken by the Scandinavian countries, which explains why they have the best education system in the world.
Recently, the President of the Republic of Kenya gazetted the latest reform task force to review issues affecting the entire education sector.
As a university, we welcome this initiative, for we believe that reform would create a better system and approach that would be more responsive to the needs of Kenyans.
Accordingly, I wish to urge the academic community assembled here today to seize the opportunity and propose tangible research-driven reforms that will drive this sector while improving quality, access and efficiency.
As a university, we have made radical reforms in our education programmes.
This started by training and certification of all academic staff in the School of Education, Humanities and Social Sciences on the Competency Based Curriculum.
During the last two weeks, all lecturers in the School of Education, Humanities and Social Sciences were tasked to align all education and theology courses with the Competency Based Curriculum requirements.
Similar tasks shall be done in the other six schools.
As a university, we require all lecturers in the School of Education, Humanities and Social Sciences to have first degrees in education.
This makes it easy for them to relate concepts in pedagogy and share experiences with the student teachers.
Meaning and Significance of Quality Assurance
Quality assurance involves systematically reviewing educational provisions to maintain and improve quality, equity and efficiency.
It encompasses self-evaluation, external evaluation (including inspection), the evaluation of teachers and school leaders, and student assessments.
It is a holistic approach covering all the processes in a higher education institution to serve the students and other stakeholders in expected quality standards.
High-quality products result in satisfied customers, which can result in customer loyalty.
According to Alexander Gillis (2021), Quality assurance (QA) is a systematic process of determining whether a product or service meets specified requirements.
Quality assurance establishes and maintains set requirements for developing or manufacturing reliable quality products.
A quality assurance system is meant to increase customer confidence and an organization's credibility while improving work processes and efficiency.
In addition, it enables a company to compete better with others.
In a research study by Haapakorpi et al. (2013) entitled the usefulness of quality assurance for university management and academic staff in Finland and Iceland, it was found that despite increasing control of universities, there is still an opportunity for improvement within the quality assurance processes in the universities.
Improvement is related to the preparatory phase of the evaluation process, where staff is actively engaged in the process, leading to the utilization of outcomes (Haapakorpi et al., 2013.)
Benefits and Purposes of Quality Assurance
Quality Assurance (QA) benefits a university and its members through:
The internal benefits as a result of a proper quality mechanism put in place;
The external benefits to the students and the reputation of the institution;
Embracing continual improvement;
Serving accountability and accreditation requirements
Enhancing the reputation of the institution as well as meeting external demands for demonstrating the quality of products and services;
Formulating the mission, vision, goals, objectives and strategies for their achievement;
Providing a niche that helps it position itself in the field of higher education.
Quality Assurance (QA) benefits university leaders and managers in:
Making decisions based on evidence;
Developing collaborative and collegial practices;
Identify the philosophy of a university, what it stands for and its strategic direction;
Appreciating the strengths, achievements, opportunities available, and future plans;
Assists with accountability;
Identifying areas of improvement;
- Ensuring that the university work plans, action plans, and objectives are aligned with the strategic direction of the university;
- Identifying non-conformities and formulating corrective actions to ensure that the desired output is achieved;
- Enhancing communication, improving morale and a sense of working towards a common goal of the best performance and operation of the work in the university, by improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the work;
- Documentation of quality procedures that make it easier for new staff to understand and fit into the university with maximum ease and minimum time.
- Providing self-evaluation that gives the university confidence in its day-to-day activities.
- Providing an avenue for benchmarking with other institutions of higher learning.
It is, therefore, clear that QA is very important for the survival and growth of a university.
Managing quality effectively enhances you’re a university’s brand and reputation
A university that ensures quality produces quality products and services to all relevant stakeholders.
Graduates from such a university will play a great role in society.
Given that CUE is a key oversight body on quality assurance in the universities, I am very happy to note that our keynote speaker today is the CUE Chief Executive Officer, Prof Mike Kuria.
Furthermore, given that our overall goal is to make the School of Education, Humanities and Social Sciences the best in training teachers, pastors and other social scientists in sub-Saharan Africa, it is clear why training on quality assurance given to us by KUQAN adds value to us as university.